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From Madonna to Gwyneth Paltrow: Why Some Stars Donate to Campaigns and Some Just Talk

Barack Obama, Jay-Z, Beyonce Twitter

A whole bunch of celebrities are giving lip service to favorite candidates or playing concerts for them. But are any of them putting their money where their mouth is?
—R.W., via Twitter

You'd be surprised at how many celebrities reportedly are donating nebulous "support" rather than money—think Lena Dunham, Madonna, Clint Eastwood and his pet chair; Natalie Portman, Stacey Dash, Jon Voight and Katy Perry. All have made an endorsement but none, reportedly, have written a check.

I found out the likely reason why, plus the names of a few stars who actually are shelling out cold, hard cash.

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According to political consultants and researchers, there's something you should know in general: most people, rich or poor, famous or not, do not contribute to political campaigns or causes. Ever. So, as consultant Ford O'Connell puts it to me, "In a lot of ways, celebrities are mirroring the American public."

"The overwhelming number of donations comes from the 1 percent of the 1 percent," confirms Daniel G. Newman of the nonpartisan research organization Maplight.

That said, some stars are shelling out. Newman tells me that Gywneth Paltrow just donated $15,000 in favor of California's Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified foods.

And Steven Spielberg has donated $10,000 to fight California's Proposition 32, which is largely seen as a measure that would hurt labor unions.

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Now, there's one more thing you should know. There are ways to donate thousands, even millions, of dollars toward a candidate or cause and keep it completely secret.

It's a complicated, multi-step process, but, essentially, your favorite celeb could have written a check to a non-profit known in shorthand as a C4, which would then funnel the money into a political action committee. The committee would have to disclose the name of the C4, but not the people who donated to the C4, essentially keeping the original donors a total secret, Newman explains.

So there is a chance that, say, Dunham donated some of her reported $3.5 million book advance to her pet political causes...we just might not know it.

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