Which part of the entertainment industry has clout in Washington? Hint: Not Hollywood
With Jack Valenti having passed on to that great multiplex in the sky, where he's no doubt regaling the Good Lord with gaudy tales of working in the White House with Lyndon Johnson and running Hollywood with Lew Wasserman, the Motion Picture Assn. of America no longer has the great insider's clout in Washington that Valenti provided for nearly 40 years. In fact, rumors abound that Valenti's successor, MPAA chief Dan Glickman, may already be on the way out, in part because of his lack of influence with Washington politicians, who didn't give Hollywood its much sought-after tax break in the recent stimulus package.
On the other hand, the music business seems to have the new Obama administration right where it wants it -- in the palm of its hand. It's a subject that seems to have escaped the attention of most mainstream media. But Wired, which has done some great reporting on this issue lately, reveals in its latest post that President Obama has now hired (count 'em) five Recording Industry Assn. of America (RIAA) attorneys to fill Justice Department positions. I know that Hollywood figures it has the president's ear, with Ari Emanuel's brother Rahm being White House chief of staff, but if you want to fight those pesky music pirates and downloaders, it sure is nice to have a host of big-shot lawyers inside the Justice Department.
The latest hire is Ian Gershengorn, who becomes the Justice Department's deputy assistant attorney of the civil division. He was at the RIAA firm Jenner & Block, which represented the record biz against Grokster. As Wired reports, he "will be in the charge of the DOJ Federal Programs Branch. That's the unit that just told a federal judge the Obama administration supports monetary damages as high as $150,000 per purloined music track on a peer-to-peer file sharing program.
Other Department of Justice hires from Jenner & Block include Tom Perrilli, now the department's No. 2 man; Donald Verrilli, now the department's No. 3 man; Brian Hauck, counsel to associate attorney general; and Ginger Anders, assistant to the solicitor general. Nearly two dozen public interest groups and library coalitions recently urged the president to quit filling the administration with RIAA lawyers. So far, it seems, their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
Photo of Dan Glickman by Jae C. Hong / Associated Press