Former Senator Chris Dodd Tapped as New Motion Picture Lobbying Chief
In a statement released today, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that former Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd will be the new chief executive of Hollywood’s most powerful lobbying arm. Dodd will take the reins as chief executive and chairman of the MPAA on March 17th for a reported $1.5 million a year.
As executive, Dodd will shoulder the mounting struggles facing the motion picture industry; he was chosen for his Washington connections and his potential influence. He will be working to reach consensus among the 6 studios that comprise the Association: Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers. The 6 studios, under the auspices of the MPAA, are charged with lobbying Washington, regulating movie advertisements and determining film ratings.
The 66 year-old Dodd announced his retirement from the Senate last year after 30 years serving the state of Connecticut, 2 years running the Democratic National Committee, and one failed presidential bid in 2008. His decision to leave the Senate followed polls showing that he was trailing significantly in a Senate reelection bid, in part due to controversy surrounding allegations that he received unlawful special treatment from Countrywide Financial, the now defunct subprime mortgage company. A committee formed to investigate the charges found “no credible evidence” that any law had been broken but did criticize Dodd for a lack of caution and disclosure.
Dodd comes to the table with little direct business experience and with restrictions on how much lobbying he can do for the next 2 years. Senate rules stipulate that for 2 years after departing the office, former Senators can spend no more than 20% of their working hours trying to influence legislation. Dodd is married to Jackie M. Clegg, a former Blockbuster executive.
The MPAA settled on Dodd after a year long search, and after being turned down by former Nebraska governor and US senator Bob Kerrey. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was also reportedly in the running. Dodd will replace Bob Pisano, former head of the Screen Actors Guild, who has been acting as interim chief since Dan Glickman, also a former Congressman, stepped down several months ago.
In the MPAA statement, Dodd was quoted as saying, “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. 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.”
Dodd takes the reins at a particularly challenging moment in industry history. Falling DVD sales, significant losses resulting from piracy (the illegal downloading of movies), a reduced budget, and a waning box office all pose serious threats to the studios. Among Dodd’s first actions will be to pressure Washington and China to allow increased Chinese access to American films.
Dodd also has to reckon with his own words. In an interview last year, he told the Connecticut Mirror, “no lobbying, no lobbying, no lobbying,” claiming he was not interested in trading his influence as a commodity.
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