Backstage Backer

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Backstage Backer

He’s the contributor from central casting.

by Kathleen Sharp

#18 Lew R. and Edith Wasserman, Beverly Hills, Calif. Party: Both. $301,088 total contributions

View The Wassermans’ itemized contributions.

The man who helped make a star of Ronald Reagan has for decades also been the Democrats’ dream come true. Even at age 84, Lew Wasserman, the retired chairman of MCA, and his wife continue to channel millions to the Democratic Party.

And their parties! Last year, Lew and Edith threw a soiree for President Clinton in their lush backyard with the likes of Barbra Streisand (#369) and even Republican Kevin Costner attending. Guests paid a $10,000 entrance fee; over $1 million was raised.

It wasn’t always so. Quiet during Joe McCarthy’s Hollywood persecutions, Wasserman became politically active only after trust-busting Attorney General Robert Kennedy told him he couldn’t continue to run both Universal Studios and his MCA talent agency, which had purchased the movie factory. (Wasserman chose the studio.) Although he consistently supported Democrats (rejecting a Cabinet post along the way), Wasserman backed Reagan in 1980. Why? Maybe because Carter’s Justice Department had rejected a new MCA cable network for — once again — antitrust violations.

Wasserman’s shift had roots. In 1952, Reagan, who headed the Screen Actors Guild, had allowed MCA, alone among talent agencies, to produce television shows. MCA repaid the middling actor by having him host a popular series, leading to the revived celebrity that he eventually rode to the White House.

Fast-forward 30 years. When the Reagan administration moved to repeal the FCC rules that prevented networks from producing their own shows — which had garnered Universal millions — only Wasserman’s personal appeal to the president nipped the deregulation bid in the bud. These days, Wasserman may have seen some of his political power shift toward the likes of David Geffen (#42). But, as his 1996 garden party revealed, Wasserman’s no Norma Desmond.

Next Profile | MoJo 400 Central

 

The 400 List:

Browse
The full Mother Jones 400 list.

Profiles
Meet the people with political pull.

 

Searches:

Individuals
Search the top 400 political donors by name, industry, state, or contribution amount.

Itemized Contributions
The details of every donation, searchable by donor, recipient, date, amount, and more.

 

Discuss:

Money & Politics
Is campaign finance reform the way to a better government?

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate