Backstage Backer

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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.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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