Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Donor Name: A. Jerrold Perenchio (with Margaret)
Chairman & CEO, Univision Communications, Inc., Los Angeles, CA
Rank in 1998: 190
Total Contributions: $541,500
Univision Communications, America's leading Spanish-language television network, is valued so highly on Wall Street that A. Jerrold Perenchio opts not to collect a salary as CEO—the payout from his stock ownership helps balance his checkbook, reportedly worth $3.1 billion. But working without pay isn't the only thing that makes Perenchio an anamoly in Hollywood: Unlike most of his fellow executives in the entertainment industry, he makes almost all of his campaign contributions to Republicans.
With former housing secretrary Henry Cisneros as president, Univision certainly thrived under the Clinton administration. The network, which already owns 19 stations that reach 92 percent of the country's Hispanic households, plans to expand its near-monopoly, thanks to relaxed ownership rules ushered in by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Last December, Univision announced it would buy 13 stations from USA Networks and convert them to Spanish-language programming, giving the company a second station in seven of the eight largest Hispanic markets.
It is little wonder, then, that critics questioned Perenchio's motives in 1998 when he wrote a check for $1.5 million to help defeat English for the Children, a California referendum that would have halted bilingual education in the state. Although Perenchio, an Italian-American, is known for his support of immigrants, opponents pointed out that he has a financial interest in keeping Hispanic kids speaking Spanish—the less English they know, the fewer TV stations they have to choose from.
Univision is not the only source of Perenchio's fortune. A producer whose credits include "All in the Family" and "Driving Miss Daisy," he is currently promoting boxer Oscar De La Hoya. Perenchio also owns Chartwell Partners, an investment firm focused on media and communications, and plans to branch into the Internet with a joint venture called "Ask Jeeves en Espanol."
Perenchio has supported vouchers to provide tax dollars to students in private schools, and has hosted GOP fundraisers for Senator John McCain (R.-Ariz.). But he sometimes backs Democrats, and has contributed to the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. "He's been a strong Republican, but he also supports people that he believes in," Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan told reporters. "So he has supported some Democrats."
During the past election cycle, "some" meant "almost none." Perenchio gave $3,000 to Democrats, while showering $538,500 on Republicans.