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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What does Hollywood want with former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd… and vice versa?

Glenn Greenwald, one of my favorite muckraking political journalists, last week posted a piece on former Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who has long been a friend to corporate interests but, when he announced his retirement, insisted that he would not take a job working on behalf of those corporate interests to lobby his former Senate colleagues. And then (from The Hill:

Dodd to be Hollywood’s top man in Washington

Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will be Hollywood’s leading man in Washington, taking the most prestigious job on K Street.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) named Dodd chairman and CEO on Tuesday. He will start his new job on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.

Lawmakers are legally prohibited from registering as a federal lobbyist for two years after leaving office, but they can work at firms without directly lobbying their former colleagues.

The MPAA didn’t respond to questions about whether Dodd would register as a lobbyist in two years.

Dodd’s hiring, which had been rumored for weeks, ends months of media speculation regarding who would take one of the most glamorous jobs on K Street, whose perks include a $1.2 million-a-year salary and getting to attend the Academy Awards ceremony.

Dodd has longstanding ties to the film industry: His wife, Jackie Clegg, was a director at Blockbuster until last year; he counts “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels among his close friends; and he has dated actress Carrie Fisher. Dodd also appeared as himself in the movie “Dave” and was acknowledged in the credits of “Evita.”

MPAA spent a year searching for the new head of its D.C. office. Dodd’s hiring comes after the organization’s unsuccessful pursuit of former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), which prompted reports of how the MPAA has lost its luster since the heyday of iconic former boss Jack Valenti. The increasingly corporate nature of Hollywood is often cited as a root cause.

“I am truly excited about representing the interests of one of the most creative and productive industries in America, not only in Washington but around the world,” Dodd said in a statement.

“The major motion picture studios consistently produce and distribute the most sought-after and enjoyable entertainment on earth. Protecting this great American export will be my highest priority.”

Back to Greenwald:

Leaving no doubt about what the MPAA seeks in this position — a politician willing to sell his connections to the highest bidder — the association chose Dodd only after it was unsuccessful in recruiting former Sen. Bob Kerrey.

Other than the blatant violation of his pledge [not to take a lobbying job], there is, of course, nothing unusual about Dodd’s sleazy feeding at the trough through legalized influence-peddling. It’s how Washington works. Holman’s Public Citizen group circulates “Integrity Pledges” asking retiring members of Congress to find something else to do besides lobbying on the ground that, as Holman put it when praising Dodd’s (worthless) no-lobbying pledge last year:

The revolving door abuse is just out of control here on Capitol Hill and it is a primary source of undue influence peddling, Only the very wealthy businesses can afford senators and congressmen.

This, of course, is the whole point. So much energy and chatter is spent fixating on partisan wars and election victories, but this is the real process that determines policy outcomes. How can ordinary Americans possibly compete with corporations that can purchase the Chris Dodds of the world from both parties, who then dutifully use their decades of influence to foster the legislative and executive outcomes their owners want? Obviously, they can’t and don’t, which is another way of saying that democracy exists in name only; to say that “only the very wealthy businesses can afford senators and congressmen” is another way of describing oligarchy.

So now Hollywood has even greater political power. What issues can we expect to lose out on when it comes to entertainment in this new equation? The Hill runs down the expected list: piracy, online video, and corporate mergers (such as the recent merger of cable provider Comcast and NBC-Universal). But these are matters over which Hollywood has already been screwing consumers for years.

What does Hollywood want with former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd… and vice versa?

Can we expect, perhaps, a push for perpetual copyright for corporate creations? (Disney made its fortune retelling stories in the public domain, but you can be sure it will never, ever let Toy Story go.) Harsher punishments for piracy, and maybe stricter notions of what constitutes copyright infringement? (Could fan fiction become illegal?) How much worse can it all get?

(Thanks to bronxbee for the heads up. If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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