Democrats are the biggest winners when it comes to raking in political donations from Academy Award nominees.
Some of the Oscars’ most famous contenders — including this year’s hopefuls Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper and Meryl Streep — are delivering big bucks for the left.
Norton plays an egotistical movie star in “Birdman,” — which snagged him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Sunday’s awards — but the real-life film star is one of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donors.
An analysis by The Hill of political donations made by past and present Oscar nominees in the award show’s top categories shows the entertainer, who has publicly urged Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.) to make a 2016 White House bid, has given tens of thousands of dollars over the years to Democratic causes and candidates.
Norton donated $53,000 to the Democratic National Committee over a four-year period and has also poured money into a slew of now-lawmakers’ campaigns, including Sens. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken rules out challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Ex-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (D-Mo.), and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), among others.
Witherspoon, who earned her second Best Actress nomination this year for “Wild,” has also donated generously to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records. The 2005 Oscar winner gave $1,500 to Warren’s camp in 2012. She's also given in excess of $6,000 to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandEx-officials voice deep concerns over new Pentagon UFO unit Paid leave advocates ramping up the pressure on Manchin and Schumer Gillibrand, bipartisan lawmakers push to keep military justice overhaul in NDAA MORE (D-N.Y.), and $1,500 to then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE (D-N.Y.).
While Clint Eastwood, the director behind Best Picture nominee “American Sniper,” is known for his support of Republican candidates — famously delivering his “empty chair speech” at the 2012 Republican National Convention — the film’s star, Bradley Cooper, gave $750 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Cooper is vying for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the record-grossing movie.
Other A-listers who double as Democratic donors and are up for Oscars this year include “Birdman” star and Best Actor nominee Michael Keaton, who gave $2,500 to President Obama’s reelection campaign, “Foxcatcher’s” Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo, who has contributed more than $13,000 to Democrats in the last decade, Best Supporting Actress nominees Patricia Arquette and Laura Dern, "Boyhood's" Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep.
The most nominated actress in Academy Awards history and up this year for her role in “Into the Woods,” Streep donated $45,000 to Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, as well as over $30,000 to the Democratic National Committee that year.
Past Oscar nominees have also coughed up big bucks to support their political picks. Sally Field, a 2013 Best Supporting Actress contender for “Lincoln” and one of the Academy Award’s most memorable winners for her 1984 “You like me!” speech, has donated more than $26,000 to a range of Democratic candidates and committees since 1990, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Another 2013 nominee, Anne Hathaway, donated thousands to Obama and $45,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2012.
Among the other past Oscar winners and nominees who are big-time Democratic donors: Leonardo DiCaprio (who has given more than $60,000 to Democrats since 2008), “The Departed” director Martin Scorsese, and two-time Academy Award winner and Democratic fundraising machine George Clooney.
Donations to Republican candidates are few and far between in the world of Oscar competitors, but some celebrities have opened their checkbooks for the GOP.
In addition to Eastwood, director James Cameron — who famously delivered the “Titanic”-inspired line, “I’m king of the world!” after receiving his 1998 golden statue for Best Director — gave $5,000 to the Republican Party of California. But Cameron also donated thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including more than $5,000 to Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’s failed Kentucky Senate bid last year against Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Memo: Trump's justices look set to restrict abortion Conservatives could force shutdown over Biden vaccine mandate Freedom Caucus urges McConnell to block government funding over vaccine mandates MORE (R).
Kathryn Cramer Brownell, assistant professor of history at Purdue University, says it’s no surprise that the majority of Oscar nominees lean Democratic. “The Democratic Party has a long history of relying on Hollywood celebrities for financial support in a variety of ways,” she says.
The author of Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life says, in broad terms throughout the 20th century, Republicans have capitalized on conservative celebrity activists by encouraging them to run for office.
Democrats, on the other hand, Brownell says, have “institutionalized Hollywood entertainment in its party’s fundraising structures, capitalizing on not only celebrities’ personal wealth, but also their fundraising power generated through their fame and performance skills.”
-Sabrina Caserta, Lucy Feickert, Marianna Sotomayor, and Alison Thoet contributed.