Reiner endorsement increases Dean’s fundraising power

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(Host) Howard Dean’s bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination got a big boost on Thursday when film director Rob Reiner announced his strong support for Dean. Reiner is very active in Democratic politics and the endorsement is expected to open a lot of new fundraising opportunities for Dean.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The importance of Reiner’s endorsement can be seen in the events that took place immediately after former Vice President Al Gore announced that he would not be a candidate for president in 2004. In a matter of hours, virtually every person seeking the Democratic nomination called Reiner to seek his support, because Reiner has been a very effective Hollywood fundraiser for Democratic candidates.

According to recent reports, the entertainment industry is now the fourth largest source of cash for federal campaigns. This is critical for Dean because new campaign finance reform laws limit soft money and place a much greater importance on individual contributions.

Dean has been generating a lot of national press in recent weeks but many observers have questioned his ability to raise enough money to be a competitive candidate. In addition to endorsing Dean, Reiner also signed on as a co-chairman of the governor’s California campaign effort and will serve as a member of Dean’s national finance committee.

Chad Griffin, who is Reiner’s political advisor, says his boss is backing Dean because of the governor’s strong stand on early childhood education and his opposition to a possible war in Iraq. Griffin says Reiner is committed to do a lot of fundraising for Dean:

(Griffin) “After Al Gore and Tom Daschle dropped out of the race, that left most of this country’s top donors and fundraisers open. And it truly is up for grabs right now, where the donor community is going to go – certainly here in the entertainment industry. There’s tremendous interest in Governor Dean. Many people here are just getting to know him. When they meet him they’re impressed by him.”

(Kinzel) How important is the Reiner endorsement? Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says it’s a big help:

(Davis) “Reiner is well connected in fundraising circles, especially in southern California, but in New York as well. So getting Reiner on board is going to help Dean open up some doors that will help him raise the money he needs to run – particularly in the states that come right after the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.”

(Kinzel) Davis says the endorsement also solidifies Dean’s base with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and gives the governor strong credibility with anti-war activists in the party.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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