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By Frederic J. Frommer, Published July 29 2006

Entertainers give to Franken’s PAC

WASHINGTON – Comedian Al Franken has raised money for his political action committee from an all-star cast of entertainers, including actor-writer Larry David, singer Barbra Streisand, writer-director Nora Ephron and actor Jimmy Smits.

Franken, who hosts a radio show on the liberal Air America Radio network, is considering challenging Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., in 2008. Franken moved his show from New York City to Minneapolis earlier this year, fueling speculation of a possible bid.

Franken’s Midwest Values PAC raised money from dozens of actors, directors, writers and entertainment executives for his leadership PAC, an Associated Press review of campaign finance reports shows.

Other contributors included actor Larry Hagman; directors Christopher Guest and Barry Levinson, and writers Harold Ramis and Aaron Sorkin.

“Al is a friend of mine, so more than anything, when friends ask me to do things, I have a hard time saying no to people,” David said in a telephone interview. “If he asked me to drive him to the airport, I’d do that too.”

Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer, said that most of the contributors are people he knows from the business.

Some of the contributors are people that Franken has collaborated with on movie projects, including Ramis and Ron Bass.

“These are people who do quality work who I’m very, very proud to be associated with,” Franken said.

Politicians use leadership PACs to make political contributions to other candidates and to finance political travel. Franken, who has raised about $500,000 for the PAC so far this year, couldn’t use the money for his own race, but he has used the contributions to donate money to the Democratic Party and to several candidates. That helps him build chits with fellow Democrats should he decide to run.

So far, the Midwest Values PAC has donated about $80,000 to three national Democratic Party organizations. It’s also made the maximum $10,000 donations to Minnesota Democratic congressional candidates Coleen Rowley, Tim Walz and Patty Wetterling, and to Minnesota Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar.

But Franken said the contributions were not made with the hope of building support for his own potential race in 2008.

“They were made in the hope of taking one of the houses or both in 2006,” he said. “That’s where my focus is right now.”

Franken says he still hasn’t decided whether to run for Senate.

Coleman’s office declined to comment for this story, but his campaign is already making an issue of Franken’s Hollywood money.

“One of my potential opponents is comedian Al Franken,” Coleman wrote in a fundraising letter a few months ago, “but there’s nothing funny about his venomous ‘Air America’ liberal radio show, his high-powered and deep-pocketed Hollywood friends, his national network of Bush-Haters or the magnitude of his personal wealth.”

Mark Drake, a spokesman for the Minnesota Republican Party, said that Franken as a candidate would energize the GOP base.

“The fact that Hollywood is very supportive of Al Franken underscores how out of touch he is with Minnesotans,” Drake said.

But David, star of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” said Franken has nothing to apologize for.

“It’s better to get money from people in Hollywood than corporations,” he said. “He’s not beholden to anyone in Hollywood to do them favors by accepting their money.”

Ramis, who hosted a fundraiser for Franken at his home in Northfield, Ill., said people in the entertainment world are contributing to the PAC in the hopes that Franken decides to run for Senate.

“Absolutely. I’m hoping he will run,” said Ramis, whose writing and directing credits include “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” and “Analyze This.”

“He’s a peer, he’s informed and he’s progressive,” Ramis added. “Knowing him as a friend, I know he genuinely believes that this country can do better.”


Fred Frommer can be reached at ffrommer@ap.org


On the Net:

Midwest Values PAC: http://www.midwestvaluespac.org