A-list celebrities seem to be opening their hearts — or at least their wallets — to Pete Buttigieg.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor was a virtual unknown months ago. But he used breakout town hall performances, viral moments and his biography as a millennial, gay military veteran and a former Rhodes scholar to get the attention of the entertainment industry and rake in cash for his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.
Among the more than 50 celebrities who gave Buttigieg money during the second quarter are rocker Joan Jett ($150), recording industry mogul David Geffen ($5,600), fashion icon Anna Wintour ($2,800), designer Tom Ford ($5,600), actress Sharon Stone ($5,600) and comedian Ellen DeGeneres ($5,600). They helped fuel his field-leading $24.8 million fundraising haul.
Democratic politicians — and particularly White House hopefuls — have long leaned on the entertainment industry’s home of California to serve as an ATM for their political ambitions. During the second quarter, Buttigieg proved to be particularly effective at it, outraising home-state Sen. Kamala Harris on his way toward collecting $3.8 million there, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
“We’re very interested in Pete. People are drawn to civility and intelligence in this moment more than ever before,” said Michael S. Smith, a designer and major Democratic donor who has cut checks to several 2020 candidates and hosted a fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden that raised over $750,000.
It’s unclear whether Buttigieg’s early popularity in Hollywood is sustainable for a campaign that’s still in its early stages. Many entertainment industry heavyweights who have given to Buttigieg are keeping their options open and have also given to others in the race.
Smith and his husband, James Costos, the former ambassador to Spain, both gave to Buttigieg. They are also among the co-hosts of another Biden fundraiser in Los Angeles on Thursday at the home of Sony’s Motion Picture Chairman Tom Rothman. The event also has drawn super-agent Bryan Lourd, Warner Bros. Chairman Toby Emmerich and former Sony chair Amy Pascal.
Buttigieg was supposed to have a massive LGBT fundraiser last month that included Lourd, showrunner Ryan Murphy and actor Billy Eichner, among others. But it was canceled — and has yet to be rescheduled — so that Buttigieg could deal with unrest at home after a white South Bend police officer shot and killed a black man who police say was armed with a knife.
Still, when it comes to the sizzle of celebs, Buttigieg appears to be surpassing his rivals.
During the second fundraising quarter, Buttigieg kept up an aggressive fundraising schedule, often hitting multiple events in one day, including one held by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who gave him $2,800.
He also collected money from Star Trek actor George Takei ($1,250); DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn ($5,600); Full House star John Stamos ($1,000); actress and singer Barbra Streisand ($1,000); and comedian and writer Larry David ($2,800).
He was also given $5,600 by Playboy heir Cooper Hefner and collected $250 from actress Jennifer Aniston, records show.
Other presidential contenders have drawn celebs of their own.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off attending big-dollar fundraisers, received donations from actress Scarlett Johansson ($2,800), comedian Amy Schumer ($5,600), television personality Rosie O’Donnell ($355), Jett ($235), actress and singer Bette Midler ($2,800), actor and producer Ryan Reynolds ($2,000), television producer Shonda Rhimes ($2,800) and musician Jackson Browne ($1,200).
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker collected $732 from his girlfriend, the actress Rosario Dawson, $500 from actress Alicia Silverstone and $2,800 from actor Ben Affleck.
Actress Jane Fonda gave $1,000 apiece to Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, for whom she co-hosted a fundraiser. Fonda gave $2,000 to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, records show.
Inslee also collected $5,600 from Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who was late to enter the race and languished in fundraising, collected at least one contribution from a celebrity. Actor Steve Buscemi gave him $5,600, records show.