DOCUMENT: Celebrity

Ben Affleck, Hollywood Hypocrite

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Ben Affleck, Hollywood Hypocrite

FEBRUARY 2003 UPDATE: In the new issue of Vanity Fair (March 2003), Ben Affleck again floats the possibility of a future run for Congress. "I think there's a real nobility to public service," he told the magazine. "It would be fun to run on a platform I really believed in, without being beholden to the win-at-all-costs mentality." But when he launches that campaign, Ben will have to explain his pathetic voting record--he's made it to the polls exactly once in the past ten years--and didn't even bother to vote in 2000, when he traveled the country with Al Gore in an effort to get out the youth vote. While TSG nailed Affleck for that bit of hypocrisy back in April 2001--as our below story shows--the actor remained unregistered until three months ago, when he finally re-upped in Los Angeles (and voted in the November general election). So, Ben, welcome back to the franchised world.

April 24, 2001--In the final hectic weeks of Campaign 2000, no celebrity worked harder for the Democratic ticket than Ben Affleck, Hollywood's young prince. The 28-year-old Academy Award winner crisscrossed the country in support of Al Gore, repeatedly delivering a get-out-the-vote plea: "It's very important to vote.The president will appoint three or four Supreme Court justices."

During the final week of the race, Affleck stumped for Gore in California, Florida, and Pennsylvania. During a stop in Pittsburgh, the star--along with Helen Hunt,Martin Sheen, Rob Reiner and other actors--spent an hour at a phone bank calling registered Democrats."People in my generation have a low voter turnout. One of the reasons that I'm here is to demonstrate that no matter who you are going to vote for...I think it's important to get involved and get out and vote,"Affleck told reporters. "But I'm going to tell people to vote for Gore." Affleck was the celebrity caravan's youngest member and the one Gore backer guaranteed to be greeted on the trail with shrieks and swoons from younger voters.

In addition to backing Gore, Affleck had been a big supporter of former President Bill Clinton and also pushed New Yorkers to elect Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. On October 28, for instance, Affleck flew with the First Lady to Ithaca, New York, where he introduced her at a Cornell University rally. Affleck told the college crowd that Clinton had been advocating for women and working families since "Rick Lazio was running around the frat house in his underwear." Lazio, then a Long Island congressman, was Clinton's Republican opponent.

On Monday, November 6, the final day of the campaign, Affleck was one of several A-list celebrities summoned to Miami Beach by Miramax Films boss Harvey Weinstein for a late-night Gore rally, just hours before polls opened nationwide. The Gore campaign's last event, a final effort to energize South Beach voters, didn't end until about 1 AM, but Affleck still had one more piece of campaigning to do. He flew back to New York that morning and made a surprise live appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. It was 10:15 when the groggy actor made his final public pitch from a Rockefeller Center studio, noting that he was "a little bit tired...I've been out getting involved, doing stuff and trying to get people to vote. And that's why I came by here."

As returns came in that night, Affleck told Salon's Amy Reiter, "I'm nervous this evening, but one of the things that's exciting to me is the amount of people who voted. No matter who wins, I think it's a healthy thing for our country that so many voters have come out and participated in the process. Either way, I think the most important number will be the turnout." Reiter interviewed Affleck at an election night party thrown at Elaine's by Miramax and Talk magazine.

Given his role during the 2000 race, it probably should not have come as a surprise that Affleck dreams of a future in politics. In May's GQ magazine, the Oscar winner said, "My fantasy is that someday I'm independently wealthy enough that I'm not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people--be they singers or poets or bankers or lawyers or teachers--should be in government." Just the kind of altruistic thoughts you'd expect from a square-jawed leading man who's starring as a heroic fighter pilot in this summer's big blockbuster, the $150 million epic "Pearl Harbor."

So imagine The Smoking Gun's shock and dismay when--after a week of diligent searching--we could not find a shred of evidence that Affleck actually bothered to vote last year.

TSG checked records and spoke with election officials in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Los Angeles, and New York City and discovered that Affleck did not pull the lever in any of those cities--and apparently hasn't done so in eight years. TSG examined documents in those locales because after reviewing scores of newspaper and magazine articles and a variety of computerized databases, they were the only three cities in which Affleck appears to have lived over the past decade.

The Smoking Gun began its review in Cambridge, the actor's hometown and where he lived until he was 18. The Cambridge Election Commission had no records of Affleck voting in 2000. And a check of documents dating back to 1990 turned up no prior registrations in Affleck's name, according to Teresa S. Neighbor, the commission's executive director. Affleck grew up in a Cottage Street home in which his mother still lives (and from which she is currently registered to vote). He moved to California in 1991 to pursue an acting career.

Registrar of Voters records show that Affleck signed up to vote in Los Angeles in September 1992. He registered as a Democrat and gave his address as an Altivo Way home owned by family friends. Affleck voted in that November's general election, the first presidential race (Bush vs. Clinton) for which the actor, then 20, was eligible to vote. Affleck would eventually move from the Altivo Way house and live in a series of L.A. apartments before settling down in the Hollywood Hills.

But the Registrar's documents also reveal that Affleck subsequently cast no other ballots--either in person at a polling place or through an absentee ballot--instate or federal races held in 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000. Records of odd-year elections--held for local offices like mayor and city council--are maintained by a separate City of Los Angeles elections board, which does not keep registries for more than six months after an election. County records show that in January 2000 Affleck's voter registration was changed to an"inactive" status after a routine mail check determined that his Altivo Way address was no longer current. A TSG check of voter registration records in the neighboring counties of Ventura, Orange, and San Bernardino turned up no record of an Affleck registration.

Motor vehicle records show that Affleck currently has a driver's license issued by the State of California and that the license carries a Los Angeles address. In April 1999, the actor paid $1.6 million for a7500-square-foot home on La Presa Drive in the Hollywood Hills. In February, the Los Angeles Times reported that Affleck has listed the home for sale, in part because "he is said to be planning to spend more time in New York."

But none of that Big Apple time has passed inside a voting booth. Since Affleck owns a Tribeca loft, TSG checked city Board of Elections records, but came up with no current or past registrations for him (though brother Casey, whose given name is Caleb, signed up to vote in 1996 from a Manhattan address). We checked every person registered to vote from the star's Walker Street address and there were no Afflecks (or any variation of the spelling) registered from the eight-unit building.

In a November 12, 2000 Boston Globe article, Affleck said he bought his New York loft and Hollywood Hills mansion "'cause I just get so tired of that feeling of not ever being home, of always being on the road. So I got two places where I can just kind of hang my hat."

During his November 7 visit with Rosie O'Donnell, Affleck said, "Today is the get-out-the-vote day and...I think this is the time to get involved,especially the young folks who are here." The studio audience, packed with teenagers awaiting an appearance by 'N Sync, screeched its underage approval. "I'm about to go vote," Affleck then said, adding later, "I am personally gonna vote for Al Gore."

So where did this supposed vote occur? Affleck was 3000 miles away from the city where his voter registration was termed inactive (though he would have been allowed to vote had he showed up at his old polling place). And he wasn't registered from his Tribeca loft or, for that matter, anywhere else in New York City. Ben, it seems, doesn't limit his flights of fiction to film scripts.

Asked about Affleck's voting record, spokesman David Pollick initially said that, "I would be shocked if he didn't vote." He then claimed in a e-mail sent Tuesday(4/24) afternoon, "Despite Ben's attempt to vote on election day 2000, a bureaucratic snafu at the polls prevented him from doing so. Fortunately, the candidates he supported carried New York state without this vote." Pollick provided no other details of this supposed "snafu" or why no New York City elections records show that his client was even registered to vote.

During his recent GQ interview, Affleck reflected on the lure of public office: "Not to get too Susan Sarandon on you, but part of what I'd get off on would be the oration, the speech making and the idea of leading." Well, Ben, Sarandon found her way to the polls in November. So did Harvey Weinstein. Not to mention your ex-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow. This high-profile trio all voted in Manhattan--and it took TSG all of five minutes to locate their registration and voting information.

We'll wait to hear Affleck's explanation for this colossal display of hypocrisy, though it's certainly not the first time a celebrity failed to get out his own vote. But usually a wannabe politician waits until he's safely in office before unleashing such a torrent of falsehoods and distortions. This Affleck kid will go places in Washington.