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The Money Game: The Race for No on 8

Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg aren’t gay, but their financial support for the effort to defeat California’s Proposition 8 has made them two of the highest-profile donors in the fight to keep same-sex marriage legal in the Golden State. As No on 8 struggles to catch up to the "Yes" campaign in fund-raising, the publicity and awareness generated by the likes of Pitt and Spielberg may well be worth more than any sum of money.

BY Advocate.com Editors

September 24 2008 12:00 AM ET

“When it
gets reported on Entertainment Tonight or CBS 5
or whatever it is, you get the reporting and messaging
around that, so you get a triple hit,” he said.
“It’s worth three times as much,
essentially.”

For his part,
Smith is not concerned that Pitt and Spielberg’s
donations will make his campaign look too elitist or
out of touch to everyday California voters. “If
our message was, ‘Vote no because Brad Pitt is
voting no,’ that would be different,” Smith
said. “But just that he’s donated money,
I don’t think you’re going to see a negative
pushback.”

And instead of
elitism, a follow-up donation from someone like a
Spielberg creates its own kind of momentum, even if there
are some other costs, Smith said.

“It
isn’t so much Brad Pitt by himself, not so much
Steven Spielberg by himself, but the
combination,” he said. “When the first one
dropped that was significant, but now that Spielberg
has done it, now it becomes a bit of a
movement.”

But the trade off
comes in a slowdown in all that free media. “It
won’t get reported as much,” he said.
“It gets less interesting.”

Numbers on a
fund-raising tote board will not decide success, Kors said.
He notes that while supporters of Proposition 8 have booked
more media time, his side has already gotten TV ads on
the air, including a new ad featuring parents of a
lesbian couple that began running this week.
“We’ve been more strategic in how we spent our
money,” he said.

The basics of the
proposition system in California suggest the momentum
is with the marriage equality side, said Rick Jacobs, the
founder and chair of Courage Campaign, an online
progressive advocacy organization based in California
that is part of the No on 8 coalition.

“In this
state the rule of thumb is in order to win the ballot
initiative, you have to poll at 60% or better when it first
starts,” Jacobs said, noting that it is optimal
to get that 60% yes vote in August. “It
didn’t and it never has,” he said, explaining
that most polls have shown an even race or a majority
favoring a no vote. “The reality is it is much
easier to get a no than a yes, and you can spend less money
and get a no than get a yes.”

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