Jane Fonda Donates $100K to Defeat Issa

Donation from 'Hanoi Jane' aims to influence swing district with massive military presence

Actress Jane Fonda attends the women's march in Los Angeles / Getty Images

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Jane Fonda has donated $100,000 to a political group solely aimed at defeating California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country.

Fonda's contribution amounts to nearly one-quarter of the group's total $440,000 haul for the year.

Top donors to the group, Flip the 49th Neighbors in Action, include Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio, comedian Bill Maher, actor Ted Danson and former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.). Maher donated $15,000, DiCaprio and Boxer doled out $2,500 each, and Danson cut a $1,500 check, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Jay Leno also contributed $2,500 through his JDM Foundation, an organization that Leno funds along with contributions from auto-racing companies.

Fonda, now 79, earned the nickname "Hanoi Jane" from Vietnam veterans for visiting Hanoi in 1972 as an anti-war protester in 1972 where she posed for photos on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery.

There is a strong military and veteran presence in the district, located in North County San Diego, including the mammoth Marine base of Camp Pendleton, where nearly 100,000 Marines are stationed.

Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel and Democrat, nearly defeated Issa in the 2016 contest. Issa won by just 1,621 votes. Applegate is running again and is engaged a bitter primary contest against Mike Levin, an environmentalist lawyer with support from national Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.).

Republicans have a voter registration advantage in the coastal district, 37 percent to Democrats' 31 percent, but Democrats say anti-Trump sentiment across the state and within the district will help swing the turn-out Democrats' way.

Flip the 49th purports to be a "grassroots" organization, referring to itself as a "comprehensive, community, political, leadership and organizing committee" aimed at ousting Issa from office, according to its website.

Organizers have said roughly 40 percent of its donations come from residents in Orange and San Diego counties, which are included in the boundaries of the congressional district.

However, the group also has strong ties to national unions. The Service Employees International Union local 221 ponied up $25,000 of in-kind donations to the group, and one of the group's founders is David Lagstein, SEIU’s political director, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

The political group gave its donor list to the Union-Tribune a month before it was required to disclose the donors to the Federal Election Commission.

Under a section on the group's website titled, "Our Story," organizers say they decided to form the group after three different protests apparently by different groups took place outside Issa's district office in Vista, California on the same day.

"These confluences of chaotic and spontaneous mobilizations inspired the establishment of the 49th District Action Council to improve collaboration among different groups across the district," the group states.

The group takes credit for turning out 2,000 Issa opponents for a Healthcare Town Hall in February to discuss GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare, organizing weekly "Tuesday with Issa" protests, as well as "coordinating call-in, letter-writing and advocacy efforts across the district."

The group is also organizing a "resistance holiday party" in the district on December 22, in order to "celebrate" "our amazing work together, inaugurate the new Flip the 49th! Office, and recharge for the new year!" the website states.

"For nearly a year now, these protesters have masqueraded as a grassroots group, only now to be exposed as a front group for Hollywood elites and the furthest fringes of the left-wing media," said Issa campaign spokesman Calvin Moore. "No wonder they waited until they got caught avoiding their requirements with the FEC to disclose their donors. We'll definitely be reminding voters about the cast of out-of-touch liberals who are really behind these efforts. Voters will have a clear choice between California's single most effective Congressman or a Nancy Pelosi puppet bought and paid for by the Hollywood elite and traitors like Jane Fonda. That's a choice we'll win every time."

Moore also argued that donations from Fonda wouldn’t play well in the district.

"Especially for a district that's home to Camp Pendleton and so many Marines and veterans who've served our country honorably, having protestors and political opposition funded by Jane Fonda who sided with North Vietnam government over our men and women in uniform, isn't really going to play very well for them," he said.

Flip the 49th Neighbors in Action, the group in question, pushed back against suggestions that the Hollywood donors to the group could turn off local voters.

"Issa’s only hope of getting re-elected is to divert attention away from his record of carrying Donald Trump's agenda to take away our healthcare and provide massive tax breaks to polluters and Wall Street" said the group’s spokesman, Cipriano Vargas.

The group did not respond to a Washington Free Beacon question about whether Fonda’s funding could backfire by motivating more veterans or current members of the military to turn out and support Issa.

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree   Email Susan | Full Bio | RSS
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. She is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.

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