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Early on, Schwarzenegger has a campaign conflict

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- One of Arnold Schwarzenegger's first missteps as a candidate was to announce that the talent agency that represents him would help with his campaign.

The uproar in Hollywood was immediate.

An agent at the Creative Artists Agency, Bryan Lourd, had initially agreed to be an economic adviser to Schwarzenegger, with the former secretary of state, George P. Shultz, and the billionaire investor Warren Buffet.

But several of the agency's big-name clients -- such as Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Woody Harrelson -- were upset that their agency might publicly back any politician. A few days later, on Aug. 22, Schwarzenegger and the Creative Artists Agency backed away.

"It's silly to think that a company would throw its weight behind a political figure," said Donna Bojarsky, a political consultant to Richard Dreyfuss and other actors who seek her advice about supporting political causes and candidates.

"This is a noisy campaign," said a longtime political activist, Stanley Sheinbaum, a son-in-law of the late mogul Harry Warner. "The younger members of the industry are a lot less cautious about who and what they support." In Washington, Hollywood is seen as a land of liberal Democrats. Schwarzenegger's campaign, however, has raised the curtains on the political diversity of the nation's stars and others in the entertainment industry. Many are Democrats, but they tend to express their politics as activists for specific causes or as fund-raisers for favored politicians. Actors who become candidates for elected office tend to be Republicans, like Schwarzenegger and, before him, Ronald Reagan.

"People talk about Hollywood as though it's one sentient being," said Ivan Reitman, who directed Schwarzenegger in four films, including "Kindergarten Cop."

"But there are just as many diverse views here as there are in any other industry."

The Creative Artists Agency has hundreds of top clients, and their views run the gamut of political persuasions. Agency representatives did not return telephone calls, but clients said the Schwarzenegger incident appeared to have embarrassed the firm.

The agency was founded in 1975 by a group that included Michael Ovitz, who became a fund-raiser for President Clinton. Ovitz modeled his firm after the legendary agency MCA, which 40 years ago supported a few actors turned politicians, albeit quietly.

In the early 1960s, MCA's chairman, Jules Stein, and an agent, Taft Schreiber, helped the tap dancer George Murphy, who had been a client, win a US Senate seat in California.

Later, they helped Reagan, another former client, get a job as a corporate spokesman for General Electric. He toured plants, addressed employees, and hosted the company's television show.

Reagan proved to be such a consummate speaker that his longtime agents introduced him to Holmes Tuttle, Alfred Bloomingdale, and Henry Salvatori. These businessmen were seeking a Republican to fund for the governor's race; they became part of Reagan's "kitchen cabinet" when he became governor in 1967.

"Reagan didn't know those guys until Stein introduced them," said a former MCA executive, Robert Raines. Several others in the company helped to organize Reagan's gubernatorial campaign, but kept the spotlight off their business -- which in 1962 stopped being a talent agency and became a studio.

For years, MCA quietly supported dozens of Democrats and Republicans, but never publicly threw itself behind one candidate. "You can't have a Hollywood agency getting into public politics," said a director who asked not to be named. "It's bad business."

Schwarzenegger could use the support of his wealthy fellow entertainers. The actor, who made $26 million in 2001, has said he would spend no more than $5 million of his money on a campaign that's expected to cost $20 million. That goal would require him to raise about $13 million.

Some of the state's deepest pockets are in Hollywood, an industry that sold $85 billion in films, TV shows, records and other products in 2001, making it America's top exporter, according to the International Intellectual Property Alliance. Yet few people in the industry are publicly backing the candidate.

Reitman is one of the few. He plans to host a fund-raiser for Schwarzenegger on Sept. 21, at his home in Montecito, an exclusive enclave in Santa Barbara, and 15 percent of the guest list is from the film community.

In one recent comment, Schwarzenegger said that actor Rob Lowe was formally involved as an adviser to his campaign. Later he backed away, saying Lowe was a friend.

"That's just Arnold making unfounded statements," Bojarsky said. "And while some people might publicly say they support Arnold, I'd be very surprised if they actually vote for him."

Reitman disagreed, saying, "I think there is growing support for him in Hollywood." The top Hollywood producer, a Canadian citizen, can raise money for Schwarzenegger. But he cannot vote for him.

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