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Clinton’s Attention to California Paying Off

September 13, 1996

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ The attention President Clinton has heaped on vote-rich California is paying off. He headed home from his 27th trip here with $4 million from Hollywood donors and a commanding lead over GOP rival Bob Dole in the polls.

The president ended his three-day Western campaign trip Thursday night with a fund-raiser at the lavish Santa Monica estate of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle that earned $4 million for the Democratic National Committee.

It was a high-priced affair: tickets ranged from $1,000 per person for a garden reception to $12,500 per seat for dinner and a concert, emceed by actor Tom Hanks, that featured Chicago, the Eagles, Barbra Streisand and the Neville Brothers. Guests included director Rob Reiner, actor Kevin Spacey and actresses Sharon Stone, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Carrie Fisher.

A similar event was held at Burkle’s home four years ago, and Clinton said he considered the repeat performance ``a good luck charm.″ Still, he tried not to appear too assured of a victory over Dole this fall.

``I ask you to remember there are 54 more days before anybody can celebrate anything,″ Clinton said, referring to Election Day.

The president also thanked Streisand, ``for being my friend″ and for singing at the A-list gala in a rare live performance.

Democratic ties to Hollywood go back decades, but presidential candidate Bob Dole didn’t help his money-raising prospects last year when he attacked the movie industry for producing ``a nightmare of depravity.″

Democrats have raised $4.7 million and Republicans $890,000 in Hollywood for this year’s elections, according to the Campaign Study Group, a consulting firm. Common Cause, the citizen lobbying group, says entertainment and communications businesses gave almost $6 million to the Republican Party and $7 million to Democrats between Jan. 1, 1995, and June 30, 1996.

Two California public interest groups raised questions about the fund-raiser and Clinton’s ties to Hollywood dollars. They purchased an ad in the Los Angeles Times that pictured a fat cat with a big cigar clutching an armload of money beneath the headline, ``Welcome to California, President Clinton.″

``The ease at which an incumbent president can collect money from Hollywood sometimes boggles the mind. Clinton certainly has taken advantage of it,″ said Larry Makinson of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Clinton attributed his many treks to California not to the lure of Hollywood money, but because he needed ``to help the people of California with a problem they have.″

``Whether it was an earthquake, a fire, a flood, a base closing, trying to protect our borders in the South, always a problem,″ Clinton told a rally in Rancho Cucamonga. ``I come today to tell you we also have been working hard to create opportunities for the people of California.″

But the value of California’s 54 electoral votes _ more than any other state and one-fifth needed to win the election _ no doubt was a factor in Clinton’s travels. He reminded voters to ask themselves, ``in this election season,″ whether they are better off now than they were four years ago.

A Los Angeles Times poll published Thursday said Clinton had a 17-point lead among likely California voters and 57 percent of those surveyed approved of his job performance.

Clinton’s campaign attributed this popularity to the president’s ``economic stewardship″ in helping California pull out of the recession in recent years.

But Dole’s California campaign manager, Ken Khachigian, said the president cannot claim to have spurred the state’s economic recovery when unemployment and crime remain high in some areas.

``He’s not chosen to meet with the unemployed, the highly taxed, the dispossessed and the disenchanted. Those whose trust he violates the most are the ones he communicates with the least,″ Khachigian said.

``Birds, rodents, fish and roadside critters get more respect than human beings in the Clinton administration.″

Clinton campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart called Khachigian’s comments ``gratuitous personal attacks″ that reflect anxiety in the Dole camp.

``We expected that the campaign might turn negative and nasty fairly quickly,″ Lockhart said. ``This comes down to where Bob Dole is.″

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