WASHINGTON -- Democratic sources say Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg, previously listed as a probable supporter of Sen. Barack Obama for president, has agreed to host a major fund-raiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Spielberg's colleagues at the DreamWorks film studio, are backing Obama. It was thought that Spielberg was too, but sources say Bill Clinton prevailed on him to help his wife. All three men were generous backers of the former president.
Geffen and Katzenberg are hosting a $2,300-a-ticket reception at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles Feb. 20. A pledge to raise or donate $46,000 is necessary to attend a private dinner with Obama at Geffen's Malibu residence that night.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, addressing Tuesday's closed-door conference of Republican House members, gave a clean bill of health to two California colleagues under federal investigation: Reps. Jerry Lewis and Gary Miller.
If he were not convinced of Lewis's integrity, Boehner told the conference, he would not have approved his continuation as top Republican on the Appropriations Committee. Lewis is being investigated for helping a lobbyist direct millions of dollars in earmarks for clients.
Lewis did not address the conference, but Miller pleaded innocent of wrongdoing in California land transactions. That won Miller a standing ovation, but a few colleagues noted the resemblance to a similar speech to the conference last year by then Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio. On Jan. 19, Ney was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.
BUCKS FOR MCCAIN
Sen. John McCain on Wednesday personally appealed to an invitation-only meeting of some 50 possible supporters to sell $2,300 tickets for a March 21 reception at Washington's Mandarin Hotel that he considers vital to his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
McCain said the money raised for the dinner would be credited to the March 31 Federal Election Commission report on contributions, which he called "the invisible primary" to show fund-raising prowess.
Wednesday's meeting, held in a non-government office building near the Capitol, was attended by both longtime McCain backers and new allies who supported George W. Bush against McCain in 2000.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) staff is contacting GOP House members to get an idea of how many intend to retire and give the Democrats soft targets in 2008.
The NRCC survey follows a report in the Roll Call newspaper that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is monitoring more than two dozen House Republicans who are candidates for retirement.
No House Republican has yet announced retirement, and the only GOP senator so far to call it quits is Wayne Allard of Colorado. However, more retirements from both houses are expected as Republicans chafe under life in the minority. No Democratic resignations have been announced, and none are expected from the House. All Democratic senators up for re-election in 2008 have announced they are running again, with the exception of Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa (who says he has not yet decided).
Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Republican members of the Helsinki Commission monitoring human rights, have written protests to illegal firing of four Republican commission staffers after the Democrats won control of Congress.
The commission's new chairman, Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, began the firings under oversight of Spencer Oliver, a longtime Democratic operative famed as a victim of the Watergate burglary. Oliver, secretary general of an international body dealing with human rights, was assisting the U.S. commission as an observer. Under the commission's founding laws, three of the committee's four lawmakers must concur in any staff firing.
Hastings is expected to change the commission's focus away from religious freedom in Belarus and European sex trafficking and concentrate on alleged U.S. abuses at Guantanamo.