In addition to Michelle Obama’s surprise appearance at the Oscars ceremony last night, DreamWorks CEO and Obama mega-donor Jeffrey Katzenberg was recognized for his philanthropic and humanitarian achievements.
Katzenberg received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (an “honorary Oscar”) in September 2012, and was honored again on Sunday during the live festivities.
The ultra-wealthy Hollywood tycoon and long-time liberal benefactor was one of the most prolific donors during the 2012 election cycle, giving more than $3.2 million to Democratic candidates, committees, and super PACs. Most of that money ($3 million) went to Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC that the president had nominally shunned until early 2012, when his stunning reversal on the issue — he had previously warned that super PACs posed a “threat to our Democracy” — gave liberals donors a green light to contribute to such groups.
Katzenberg was the single largest donor to Priorities USA in 2012. The group spent heavily throughout the cycle, and is perhaps best known for its controversial ad suggesting that Mitt Romney was responsible for the death of a man’s wife from cancer.
In addition to his personal contributions, Katzenberg bundled more than $2 million in donations for Obama’s campaign during the most recent cycle, and has helped raised more than $6.6 million since 2007. In May of last year, Katzenberg co-hosted a fundraising dinner at George Clooney’s Hollywood mansion, which netted $15 million for the president’s reelection effort. Obama spoke at the event, and thanked his “extraordinary friend” Katzenberg for “his tenacious support and advocacy since we started back in 2007.”
Katzenberg’s company, DreamWorks, is currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is looking into allegations that DreamWorks bribed Chinese officials in order secure the rights to produce and sells films in China. The investigation was launched in 2012 following the announcement of a $2 billion deal to open a DreamWorks studio in Shanghai.
The deal was finalized in February 2012 at a Los Angeles event featuring Katzenberg and Chinese vice president Xi Jinping, who was on his way home following a series of high-level meetings at the White House. Katzenberg had previously attended a private luncheon for Xi at Vice President Joe Biden’s residence, and had told the Financial Times that the studio deal required Xi’s personal approval.
As the Washington Free Beacon’s Matt Continetti has noted, such details are routinely omitted from mainstream media reports on Obama’s financial backers. For example, this August 2012 report in The New Yorker,which pondered whether Obama’s aversion to “cozying up with billionaires” could “cost him the election.” The article, which only briefly mentions Katzenberg as one of the president’s top donors, quotes the DreamWorks CEO lamenting that Obama is too ethical. “One of the things we so love about this president is his integrity, and his attempts to bring new ethics to Washington,” Katzenberg said. “But it makes our job harder.”