Entertainers help comedian Al Franken in fundraising for US Senate campaign

In an April episode of the ABC TV talk show "The View," Bill Maher and Rosie O'Donnell professed their support for Al Franken's 2008 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, with O'Donnell saying she was making the maximum contribution possible to the comedian-turned-candidate.

O'Donnell kept to her word, contributing $2,300 (EUR 1,669) to Franken's campaign, the maximum donation for the primary, while Maher chipped in $1,000 (EUR 725). These were among the more than 50 contributions that Franken, a former star of the TV comedy show "Saturday Night Live," received from actors, writers, producers and others in the last reporting period, his campaign finance report shows.

The man that Franken is seeking to unseat, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, used April's episode of "The View" to help with his own fundraising. In a letter to prospective contributors, Coleman wrote: "I need your help to fight back against Hollywood's liberal elite! Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Maher and Larry David sit atop the Democratic Party's elite clique of big benefactors."

Franken's friends in the entertainment field helped catapult him to a surprising lead in money raised in the second quarter of the year, covering April through June. Franken raised about $1.9 million (EUR 1.38 million), compared with $1.66 million (EUR 1.2 million) for Coleman, and $750,000 (EUR 544,228) for Democratic candidate Mike Ciresi.

Some entertainers did even better than O'Donnell, contributing $4,600 (EUR 3,338) - with $2,300 (EUR 1,669) earmarked for the general election, should Franken get that far. Those included Dan Aykroyd, Robin Williams and Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner.

Among other notable contributors were actor Ed Norton, director Harold Ramis, actress Meg Ryan, cartoonist Garry Trudeau, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and Karenna Gore Schiff, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore.

That followed a first-quarter performance that included $4,600 (EUR 3,338) contributions from actors Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jason Alexander and Larry David.

Still, the campaign is relying on donations from Minnesota and elsewhere for the long run, said Franken spokesman Andy Barr.

Coleman, who is considered among the Republicans' most vulnerable Senate incumbents, relied on a more traditional source of cash: political action committees, raising $367,000 (EUR 266,308.69) from PACs in the second quarter.

"We're very proud of our 21,000 contributors for the cycle - of which over 75 percent come from Minnesota," said Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan. "We welcome the support of those organizations, and the members of their PACs, that believe in the senator's vision for a strong, prosperous America."