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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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February 26th, 2014
06:32 PM ET

Hollywood comes to Capitol Hill – but do celebrities help or hurt their causes?

(CNN) – When celebrities come to Washington, media and politicians take notice.

But does the spectacle of the star outshine, or shed light on the cause they've come to promote?

"Often hearings in Congress are not about members of Congress learning something that they don't already know. It's performance art. If they wanted to really learn about issues, they could get it from a briefing book," said The Washington Post's Emily Heil.

Oscar winner Ben Affleck arrived in Washington Wednesday to speak about the crisis in the Congo. The "Argo" director has brought his cause to the table time and time again.

"It's just a pleasure to be back at the real State Department. I had to fake it for "Argo." I get to see the real thing here," Affleck joked with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Read more about Ben Affleck's Easter Congo initiative here.

And just a few marble pillars away, actor Seth Rogen testified about the effects of Alzheimer's disease; his mother-in-law suffers from the illness.

Sure, celebrities bring some buzz, but ultimately does anyone remember why comedian Stephen Colbert testified before Congress? Or Bob Barker? Or Elton John? Or do they just remember that they did, with the cause lost in the flash of photographs?

The truth is, that is up to the celebrity's commitment, and the journalists covering them.

To be completely candid, Congo and Alzheimer's would not be mentioned on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" today, without Affleck and Rogen.

Telling some stories without obvious news events is tough to do. Water shortages in India got CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper's" attention last year, in part because of actor Matt Damon's involvement.

Read: Matt Damon's special day involves ... toilets

Affleck's close friend founded Water.org, and their pal George Clooney is a longtime advocate for peace Sudan, even getting arrested outside the embassy in 2012.

"I think we all individually felt that if cameras were going to follow us around, why not – why not make something good out of that and uh, and also just our own. It's a very personal thing," Damon told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" last year.

"Celebrities bring attention to an issue, and especially if that issue is not the sexiest issue, if you get Ben Affleck involved, all of a sudden it's a little more interesting," said Heil.

That is something most politicians have known for a while.

Although House Republicans didn't seem too impressed by this latest celebrity photo-op. They reportedly turned down Affleck's offer to set up a similar appearance, according to "Foreign Policy" magazine.

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