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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Bob Kerrey is out: Who's the new pick for MPAA chief?

July 29, 2010 |  5:23 pm

Bob_kerrey It's been a poorly kept secret in Hollywood that the MPAA has been engaged in a prolonged waltz with former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was the first (and for that matter, second and third) choice to succeed Dan Glickman as head of the MPAA. But the news Thursday, courtesy of The Wrap, was bad. Kerrey has bailed out, apparently after disagreements over whether Kerrey, president of the New School in New York, could continue to be involved in his work with several high-profile charities. He also, like any sane person, had mixed feelings about moving to Washington, something of a prerequisite for a job that involves an enormous amount of arm-twisting and back-scratching with influential politicians and government officials.

When I spoke to one of the studio chiefs involved with the hiring process a little while ago, it was clear that Kerrey was the consensus pick. Even as recently as a two weeks ago, Kerrey told Don Imus, of all people, that he was this close to taking the gig, saying, "I would say we're in the final stage of negotiations... Unless something breaks down in that conversation, I expect to take the job."

I always try to be helpful, so I've been thinking about who might be an attractive backup choice. Since the job is so relentlessly geared toward lobbying Washington insiders, especially members of Congress, you'd have to think that a former member of Congress, as Kerrey was himself, would be the right way to go. And since the studio brass who pick MPAA chiefs tend to always lean toward the left — dating to Jack Valenti, the job has always been held by a Democrat — the search committee is in luck. Come November, according to the latest polling data, there will be lots and lots of Democrats looking for new jobs, with the party expected to lose as many as 30 to 40 House seats and perhaps seven or more Senate seats.

How about Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, who is in a very uphill fight to keep his seat? Or Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who could easily lose to Carly Fiorina? Or Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who judging from the latest polls will be very available come November — and comes with a built-in industry connection: her sister, Mary Lambert, directed the "Pet Sematary" movies and almost all of Madonna's great 1980s videos. Or the industry could recruit Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who's retiring and clearly on the lookout for new employment. In fact, if the studio chiefs want a take-no-prisoners guy with good Hollywood connections, they might even get a chance to hire White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who after the coming election debacle could be looking for a new line of work.

And of course, there's one more office holder who's going to have a lot of time on his hands come November. That would be our own California chief, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has always been a tireless cheerleader for the movie business. He's been a big disappointment as governor, but maybe he'd be more in his element as a Schmoozer-in-Chief industry lobbyist. It's unlikely that Schwarzenegger would actually take the job, since Washington is a long way from home, and Arnold hardly needs the paycheck, being independently wealthy. But who knows — maybe it's time to give a Republican a shot at wooing congressional lawmakers. After all, there are going to be a lot more Republicans in Washington next year. They might be more willing to listen to Schwarzenegger than a recently deposed Democrat.  

Photo: Bob Kerrey, speaking before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in June in New York.

Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press