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Conason points to Katzenberg as a self-disinterested Obama donor

Biden personally involved in Dreamworks deal with China

• July 9, 2012 4:21 pm

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Columnist Joe Conason argued very wealthy Romney donors are more self-interested than their liberal counterparts in a Monday discussion on "Morning Joe"–and pointed to Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg as an example.

"How are those people different from the people who showed up at George Clooney's home in Los Angeles for the fund-raiser who raised millions?" Dan Senor, a Romney policy adviser asked Conason. "Are they in touch with Middle America?

"It’s much clearer that the people who are funding Romney want something from him. They want their taxes cut," Conason said. "What does Jeffrey Katzenberg want?"

Katzenberg, however, has benefited directly from the Obama administration.

Dreamworks announced a $2 billion deal with the Chinese government in February, allowing the animation company to build a production studio in China. The announcement came days after a White House meeting between President Obama and Chinese vice president Xi Jingping.

The deal was part of another agreement that will increase China's annual quota of foreign-produced films, as well as the revenue the country will allow foreign studios to keep.

At the time, a spokeswoman for Katzenberg told the Free Beacon that the White House had not coordinated with Katzenberg during negotiations. The New York Times, however, later reported that Vice President Joe Biden was personally involved in the deal.

In April, the SEC opened an investigation into accusations that Katzenberg bribed Chinese officials for the rights to produce and distribute films in China.

Despite the investigation, Katzenberg co-hosted the $10 million Los Angeles fundraiser with Clooney in May. Katzenberg wrote a $2 million check to the Obama super PAC, Priorities USA, in 2011.

Katzenberg was a bundler for Obama’s 2008 campaign, raising at least $500,000. He and his wife personally gave $352,402 to Democrats in 2008.

Full transcript:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: If we are going to have transparency, we should call for it on both sides. Has it been more on the right?

RICHARD WOLFFE: We all knew what George Soros was doing. The difference was there was one George Soros and here we’re looking at dozens and dozens of Soros-type figures. The amount of money is out of all proportion to what we’ve seen before. You are looking realistically at the super PACs that outspend the Romney campaign and we haven't seen that before. Everyone says, "Oh, yeah, money and politics, it’s always been there." this is a different world. And, yeah, obviously progressives don't like the imbalance of it, but the secrecy and the amount of influence there is, the unlimited spending—these are all very, very new. There should be scrutiny for everyone. Absolutely. I don't see a problem with that.

DAN SENOR: I’d say there is more than one George Soros. Jeffrey Katzenberg has given $2 million to the Obama super PAC and Peter Lewis from Progressive Insurance has given—there is more than one George Soros. They just don't get the attention that donors on the right do. Is it an issue in the campaign? Do we think voters at this point, of real economic anxiety, are going to be focused on this issue?

NICK CONFESSORE: I don't think so. Campaign finance has been an issue and that's abstract. It's hard to get people to talk about it and think about it. People have jobs to worry about and health care and there are issues that I think are more visceral to people.

JOE CONASON: The reason it will be an issue in the campaign, if it does, is because it plays into the bigger themes about mitt Romney that he is an out of touch plutocrat in bed with all the other who is show up at the Hamptons in their Mercedes and think they’re the VIPs should run the country.

SENOR: How are those people different from the people who showed up at George Clooney's home in Los Angeles for the fund-raiser who raised millions. Are they in touch with Middle America?

CONASON: It’s much clearer that the people who are funding Romney want something from him. They want their taxes cut. What does Jeffrey Katzenberg want?

SENOR: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s been exposed for—the SEC is investigating him for some movie deal he did in China.

CONASON: Did they kill the investigation? That’s what Sheldon Adelson wants.

SENOR: I am simply saying the idea that donors on the left are pure and motivated solely by issues and donors on the right are motivated solely by personal advantage is absurd.

CONASON: People in Hollywood wanted certain copyright changes and as you know, they didn't get them. They got the opposite. And they’re funding him anyway.