In the new W, former Variety scribe Gabriel Snyder explains the role of Hollywood political consultants and updates the roster of who works with whom. Noah Mamet, for instance, wrangled contributors to attend a funder for Rep. Steny Hoyer and has a client list that includes Casey Wasserman. Laura Hartigan consults for TV mogul Haim Saban. "Hired by moguls and movie stars, they act as the conduits between show business and Washington power," says Snyder. Here's his rundown of some of the bigger names and veterans of the game.
Barbra Streisand has long been advised by Marge Tabankin, who came to L.A. after having once worked in the Carter administration. For years, Steven Spielberg has called upon Andy Spahn, who once worked for the Democratic congressional and senatorial campaign committees, while Rob Reiner works with Chad Griffin, a former press aide in the Clinton White House who first met the director while showing him around the West Wing during a research trip for American President.
“You have a lot of people who are very wealthy and very concerned about different aspects of society, and they want to use their money and influence in the best possible way,” Reiner says. “If they have a consultant who really does know the ins and outs of the political world, they can steer that influence to make the greatest impact.”
The current deans of the Hollywood political consultants are Tabankin and Spahn. Back in the 1980s, when Tabankin was the head of the Holly-wood Women’s Political Committee and Spahn led the Environmental Media Association, their offices were across the hall from each other. Over the years they have been joined by others, including Donna Bojarsky, who went to work for Richard Dreyfuss in 1989 and has helped the actor make his voice heard in Middle East affairs. The vets have also had a hand in grooming the newcomers. Lara Bergthold was hired by Tabankin after college and eventually took over the HWPC until it folded in 1994.
Some of the recent émigrés from D.C., including Liana Schwarz, have mixed the two worlds in previously unimaginable ways. Schwarz splits her time as a consultant for Laurie David, wife of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David, and at the Natural Resources Defense Council. She has spent much of the past two years working on global warming issues, including helping to promote Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. When producers for the film, including Laurie David, pitched Gore on turning his eco-talk into a movie, they turned to Schwarz for advice on how to make the former vice president comfortable being a movie star.
This is the W issue with the long piece on the Chandler family that used to rule (and fight over) the Los Angeles Times — and which recently precipitated the takeover of Tribune by Sam Zell. The issue hits nationally on Friday.
Photo on cover: Michael Thompson