Andrew Cuomo may not be officially running for President in 2020, but a big-bucks visit tonight to Universal boss Jeff Shell’s home to schmooze with studio chiefs shows the New York governor is already taking a page out of the Democrats’ well-thumbed Hollywood playbook for a White House pursuit.
The two-term governor is also making sure to remind Tinseltown’s deep-pocketed donors tonight like Disney’s Bob Iger that New York provides them with $420 million in tax credits annually. That’s almost $100 million more than what California hands out and the most of any state.
“He’s got the name recognition, the solid executive experience, and stronger than ever relationships out here,” one top check-writing Hollywood supporter told Deadline of the ambitious Cuomo. “Now, he is starting to feel and look like a real contender. Folks are sizing him up in a new light as someone they can back who can pack a punch against Trump,” the insider added.
In town this evening from a breakfast fundraiser with the Silicon Valley crowd in San Francisco, that assessment will see Cuomo pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars ostensibly for his 2018 state campaign at Shell and spouse Laura’s Beverly Hills pad. Along with the Universal executive and his wife, the “intimate evening” is being chaired by a cascade of longtime and well heeled Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters including Iger, CBS’ Les Moonves, Jeffery Katzenberg and wife Marilyn, Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara, Fox’s Stacey Snider and Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos. Progressive Hollywood’s favorite political fixer Andy Spahn is a host for the event which sports a price tag of $10,000-$50,000 a couple.
In their first top-tier handout at the Hollywood ATM and kissing of the ring, Sony’s Tony Vinciquerra and Viacom’s Bob Bakish are also on the invite list, as is newly minted MPAA chair and ex-Assistant Secretary of State Charles Rivkin. In town for their investor meeting tomorrow, the Fox-owning Murdochs won’t be toasting Cuomo, but 21st Century Fox EVP Public Affairs Chip Smith will fly the flag for them.
Having written checks for $50,000 to chair the event, I hear that Katzenberg, Moonves and Tsujihara will not actually be at the Shells tonight. For big donors who will be in attendance, there will be a private, smaller reception with Cuomo to kick off the evening at 6 PM. Then, around 6:30 PM, he is expected to speak at a general reception, hitting his usual themes of what New York can do for Hollywood and why he’s the guy to help them do it.
In the just more than a year since Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, Hollywood has mostly seen lower-ranking politicians and a few Sen. Tim Kaine drive-bys when it comes to the fundraising circuit. Cuomo is the first of the potential Democratic POTUS candidates to come knocking since Clinton’s defeat last November.
“Obama was a winner, but Hillary just couldn’t connect — we learned the hard way,” another executive big donor told me of the icy dilemma Hollywood has found itself in since ex-Celebrity Apprentice host Trump snatched Clinton’s assumed victory last year. “People don’t want to waste their money in 2002. We need a Democrat who has cojones more than ever, if you know what I mean?”
Although increasingly being seen in a new light, Cuomo is no stranger to mogul money – both taking it and handing it out.
Then at Fox, Gianopulos and wife Ann hosted Cuomo’s last big Hollywood fundraiser in January 2014. In a setup similar to tonight’s shindig and coming less than year after seducing the Tonight Show back to the Big Apple with a specific lavish provision in the state’s budget, that VIP-heavy event hauled in $600,000 for Cuomo’s first and ultimately successful re-election campaign. Organizers tell me they expect tonight to easily meet or exceed to that amount.
Theoretically filling up his already hefty $25 million campaign war chest for a third-term run in New York, the son of the man many Dems still consider the greatest President that never was will hold a fundraiser next month with ex-POTUS Bill Clinton as a star attraction. That event will also see a top ticket price of $50,000 with the now de rigueur private reception for the big players.
With his polls looking strong for re-election next year, could mean it is a matter of when not if Cuomo jumps into trying to make the move from Albany to Washington, D.C. It’s a feature Hollywood moguls seem to be racing to greenlight.