Los Angeles D.A. Challenger Attracting Big Hollywood Money & Support; Reed Hastings, Channing Dungey & Steven Spielberg Among Donors

Dominic Patten
·6 min read

George Gascón’s bid to be Los Angeles County’s next District Attorney replacing two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey has all the drama of a Hollywood production, and the challenger has a lot of the industry’s backing to support that idea.

Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings, newly minted Warner Bros TV boss Channing Dungey, FX EVP Georgina Balian, Macro boss Charles King, Ziffren Brittenham lawyers, documentarian Amy Ziering, Entertainment One TV chief Michael Lombardo and Berlanti Productions VP Michael McGrath are among the Hollywood backers who have contributed money to Gascón’s campaign.

Additionally, Disney VP Production Jessica Virtue, Starz SVP Kathryn Tyus-Adair, The Hateful Eight producer Stacey Sher, ex-21st Century Fox marketing exec Pamela Levine, writer-producer Kerry Ehrin, Freeform prez Tara Duncan, Dolittle director Stephen Gaghan and the Capshaw Family Trust and the Spielberg Family Living Trust have written checks – with the latter two going right to the limit of $3,000 apiece.

The former San Francisco D.A. is in a tight and high-profile race to stop Lacey winning a third term. The election is November 3.

Earlier this year, Dungey gave $500 to Gascón’s bid, as did Lombardo. However, up in the donor stratosphere, Northern California-based Hastings and spouse Patty Quillin dropped around $1.75 million in total into Gascón’s coffers. That money went both to the campaign directly and to supporting super PACs.

Asked about the contributions, Netflix told Deadline that “Reed does not comment on his personal donations.”

Still, money certainly talks here. With their donations broken down individually in filing made public last month, the Netflix boss ($500,000) and Quillin ($1,253,000) are fourth and second on the list of Gascón’s top benefactors, respectively, behind George Soros. The scion of conservatives nationwide, the Big Whale of Democratic donors put more than $1.5 million into the ex-San Francisco D.A.’s bid against Lacey, who is heavily supported by the police unions.

In a ballot box battle that has topped $13 million in contribution for both candidates, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association gave Lacey more than $1,001,000 in the past few months via super PACs, with the Los Angeles Police Protective League chipping in $1,000,000, among others. In the past few weeks, the Neighborhood Safety Coalition handed almost $600,000 to Lacey, with that strong and lucrative backing coming as the long-serving L.A. County D.A. has charged exactly one police officer with a fatal shooting since she was first elected in 2012.

In what has emerged as essentially a contest on the matters of police and criminal justice reform, Gascón has charged Lacey with being unwilling to hold law enforcement to task and address the issues of the times. “We are not hiring someone who was a trial lawyer in the 1980s and ’90s and continues to want to do business like we’re in the ’80s and ’90s,” ex-LAPD officer Gascón declared at a virtual debate with Lacey, a career prosecutor, earlier this month.

“Police violence, mass incarceration and reforming a system of justice mired in systemic racism has become the civil rights fight of this generation,” Gascón campaign spokesperson Maxwell Szabo told Deadline. “This race has implications for the rest of the country and presents a choice symbolic of the broader movement, and that’s why artists, athletes, actors and actresses are joining activists to invest in this monumental opportunity to make change.”

The Lacey campaign did not respond to request for comment from Deadline on contributions or the race.

The first African-American women elected the county’s D.A., Lacey has been the subject of near-constant protests by Black Lives Matter and other racial justice groups over her office’s conduct when it comes to the cops, as LA BLM co-founder Dr. Melina Abdullah detailed on Deadline’s POTUS 2020 podcast on October 8.

On October 20, Abdullah and two other members of LA BLM sued Lacey and her husband for an incident in March when David Lacey waved a gun and threatened protesters in front of the couple’s Granada Hills, CA home. David Lacey is facing three misdemeanor counts of assault with a firearm over the matter.

“George is getting a lot of support in the industry over the issue of racial justice and police reform, and in that sense, he is the right candidate at the right time against Lacey,” a Hollywood donor to Gascón’s campaign told Deadline. “This is also about Lacey’s reluctance to prosecute the Bill Cosbys and other prominent predators year after year — look at Weinstein.”

Lacey launched a special task force to look into allegations of sexual assault in the entertainment industry in November 2017, soon after the NYT exposé on Harvey Weinstein’s alleged long history of rape and harassment was published. Yet, despite numerous cases being handed over by law enforcement, it wasn’t until the media-saturated opening day of Weinstein’s New York City trial on January 6 this year that Lacey hit Weinstein with charges.

That orchestrated event has been followed over subsequent months by a string of politically timely new charges against Weinstein, who has not been extradited and sits in an upstate New York prison. Those Los Angeles charges add up to a 140 years behind bars for the Pulp Fiction producer if found guilty.

In that context, and in the aftermath of the renewed spotlight on police brutality and systemic racism since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, Hollywood heavyweights aren’t the only ones joining with ex-San Francisco police chief Gascón or cutting Lacey loose.

Having squeaked through to a runoff in the spring primary, Lacey, who ran unopposed last time, has since seen influential names including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti rescind their support of the incumbent and attach themselves to Gascón’s banner. Add to that list Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose district covers large swaths of Hollywood and who pulled back his previous endorsement of Lacey this summer.

Along with such Tinseltown faves as VP candidate and Gascon’s predecessor as San Francisco D.A. Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen Elizabeth Warren, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and ex-LAPD chief Charlie Beck, the challenger has also picked up endorsements from Kerry Washington, John Legend, Alyssa Milano, The Act co-stars Joey King and Patricia Arquette, Sophie Bush, Cristela Alonzo and Common among others.

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