Sunday, February 29, 2004

George Clooney hustling for dad

Actor returning home to solicit for Nick

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EDGEWOOD - George Clooney is coming to Northern Kentucky to raise money for his father's Congressional campaign.

Clooney, the Augusta native and Hollywood actor, is scheduled to attend a series of fund-raisers in Kenton County and Louisville the weekend of March 20-21. Money raised will go to help his father, Augusta Democrat Nick Clooney, try to win this year's Fourth Congressional District race.

George Clooney made the news Friday when a fund-raising letter he sent to friends turned up in The New York Post and then on broadcasts on California radio stations.

Clooney asked friends to contribute at least $500 during a fund-raiser he is holding at his Southern California home March 6. He also joked that he would personally reward contributors.

"I'm having a cocktail party at my house on Saturday, March 6," Clooney said in the letter, according to the Post story. "It's a benefit, so there will be entertainment, hors d'oeuvres and booze. And I'll wash your car every week till it's paid off ... in a toga. Hope to see you there, George."

While the fund-raiser is legitimate, Clooney wearing a toga and washing cars "was a joke," said Eric Gentry, Nick Clooney's Northern Kentucky campaign consultant.

But staff members in Gentry's Edgewood office weren't laughing Friday after his business phone number was published in New York and broadcast in Los Angeles.

"The phone rang constantly for 21/2 hours," Gentry said.

George Clooney's Northern Kentucky visits will include:

• A March 20 fund-raiser at the Villa Hills home of Rob and Amy Carlisle.

• A private reception that night at the Oriental Wok restaurant on Buttermilk Pike in Fort Mitchell.

• A March 21 fund-raiser in Louisville hosted by Mayor Jerry Abramson.

The events ask for a minimum contribution of $1,000.

Bob Doyle, Nick Clooney's Washington-based political adviser and fund-raiser, acknowledged George Clooney will be a good draw but said he has no idea how much the campaign will raise that weekend.

"Nick is going to win this race on the force of his ideas," Doyle said. "At the fundamental level, and what the people in this district need to know, is that this is a son who wants to help his dad do something special. And that's all this is about."

That's not how Republicans see it.

Justin Brasell, spokesman for GOP candidate Geoff Davis, said that while George Clooney is raising money from "liberal celebrities plotting ways to pass more gun-control laws and raise our taxes, Geoff Davis will be at the Campbell County Ducks Unlimited banquet with people who live in the real world and would like to hang on to their Second Amendment freedoms and keep more of their hard-earned money."

Brasell and others are expected throughout the campaign to try to tie Nick Clooney to the liberal world of his famous son.

Erlanger lawyer Kevin Murphy, another Republican in the race, took the same approach, saying the more focus on George, the better it is for the GOP.

"George Clooney makes Sean Penn look like Sean Hannity," Murphy quipped.

But Doyle said that strategy simply wouldn't work.

"We invite our opponent, no matter who it is, to try and make the case that Nick Clooney should distance himself from his own flesh and blood and not accept his son's help," Doyle said. "No one can ever make the accusation that Nick is not his own man."

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, the Boone County Democrat who helped recruit Clooney into the race, is not seeking re-election.

The GOP primary, which also includes Boone County chiropractor John King, is May 18.


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