News & Politics

Best and Worst Celebrity Lobbyists

Angelina Jolie is a familiar face in Washington. A UN goodwill ambassador on refugee matters, she shares a 2004 moment with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Photograph of Powell and Jolie by Mannie Garcia/Reuters/Corbis

Star Performers

Bono. The rock star is praised by both Democrats and Republicans for (a) his knowledge of issues, (b) his long-term commitment, and (c) his ability to set aside his ego and personal politics to talk with anyone who can help. He helped eliminate millions of dollars of Third World debt and persuaded President George W. Bush to increase aid to Africa.

Angelina Jolie. Hailed also for her knowledge and commitment, the movie star helped get legislation passed guaranteeing legal rights for refugee children in the United States.

Brad Pitt. The actor’s efforts to build affordable housing for Hurricane Katrina victims, evidenced by millions of dollars of his own money, has kept lawmakers from forgetting about the Katrina homeless.

Fran Drescher. Citing relevant stats, facts, and figures off-book with the best of the K Street crowd, the former star of TV’s The Nanny could be a pro lobbyist if she wanted to, insiders say. She’s been a prime mover behind passage of cancer-awareness legislation.

George Clooney. His stardom gets him appointments with President Obama and Vice President Biden. His trips to Darfur and his detailed knowledge of the tragedy unfolding there gets their attention.

Ex-Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson lobbies on animal-rights issues. She also blogs—not always coherently—on legalizing marijuana. Photograph of Anderson by Jim Young/Reuters/Corbis

No Curtain Calls

Kevin Richardson. The Backstreet Boy’s thin knowledge of mountaintop coal mining drew mostly scorn—and some laughs—from senators looking at the issue.

Sean Astin. The actor, son of actress Patty Duke, “must have thought his own voice was opera,” says a participant in some Capitol Hill meetings on funding for the arts in which he rarely let anyone else talk.

Pamela Anderson. The former Baywatch babe, an advocate for animal rights, didn’t realize she had on sheepskin boots until someone pointed it out. In an open letter to President Obama on her blog advocating the legalization of marijuana, she wrote that “we should be able to farm Hemp in America—it’s just silly—it would create jobs—and be good for [the] environment.”

Rob Lowe. The former West Wing heartthrob was introduced at a 2007 House committee hearing on renewable fuels as “a nationally recognized environmentalist.” He advocated federal promotion of hybrid-car technology—but hasn’t been seen or heard from on the subject since.

Elvis Presley. The King of Rock ’n’ Roll asked President Richard Nixon to “deputize” him as a federal narcotics agent in the administration’s war on drugs. Nixon did so, presumably not knowing that Elvis was abusing prescription drugs.

This article first appeared in the August 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.