The relationship between the federal government and Hollywood is corrupt and dirty. In essence, Hollywood liberals go easy on liberal politicians – in fact, their entertainment routinely stumps for liberal causes — and in return, the politicians give handouts to Hollywood. Government has been particularly beneficent to the television industry – from the days of Paley, Goldenson, and Sarnoff onward, warm relations between the industry and those who regulate it have been the norm.
During the 1990s, the Democratic Party raised $8 million per campaign cycle from the Hollywood contingent. By the way, that’s three campaign cycles every year. Some of the biggest Hollywood donors included David Geffen, at $200,000 per year; Jeffrey Katzenberg, who clocked in at $125,000 per year; ABC Family network head Haim Saban, who coughed up $250,000 per year. Organizationally, Disney led the way with $1 million per year, and AOL Time Warner followed suit with $500,000 per year. According to one estimate, Hollywood gave the Democratic Party “contributions roughly equivalent to what Republicans received from their friends in the oil and gas industries.” In return, Hollywood got what it wanted: favors. The 1996 Telecommunications Act got rid of restrictions on cable pricing without doing anything about local government-created monopolies, leading to skyrocketing cable prices and profits. Meanwhile, President Clinton instituted a “research and development tax credit,” according to film scholar Ben Dickenson, worth $1.7 billion to the industry.
Such warmth continues today. As of June 2010, 73 percent of entertainment industry donations during the 2010 election cycle had gone to Democrats. Comcast – a supposedly conservative company — had given approximately $1.3 million to Democrats and $756,000 to Republicans, a 64-to- 35 percent advantage to the Democrats. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) grabbed $329,800 in Hollywood donations. Not surprisingly, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), who chairs the House Commerce and Energy Committee, which has jurisdiction over communications issues, gathered $82,500 from the industry.
Things just got worse. Now, the Motion Picture Association of America has selected former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) to head up its lobbying effort in Washington D.C. Dodd follows in the footsteps of former Clinton Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. But Dodd makes Glickman look like a piker when it comes to graft. Dodd is the same man who regulated the mortgage industry while receiving sweetheart mortgage deals from Countrywide. Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo took points off of Dodd’s mortgage and lowered his fees. Meanwhile, Dodd was supposed to ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn’t assume too much risk. As we all know, Fannie and Freddie ate up all the risk, forcing them into nationalization. Dodd should have been impeached from the Senate. Instead, he’s going to be the chief lobbyist for the movie industry.
“Senator Dodd is a battle-tested leader whose reputation as a strong leader on major issues facing this country has prepared him to serve as the ambassador for the movie business,” cheered Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopolous. By the way, Dodd will receive $1.2 million per year to help relieve taxpayers of their money.
The movie industry is in trouble right now because, like too many other American businesses, it has lived off of government bloat, kowtowed to unions, and expected consumers to pick up the slack. Despite rising ticket costs and a decent slate of movies, Hollywood’s revenue dropped this year; its attendance was down more than 5 percent from last year. Fewer and fewer movies are produced because production costs are so high. The industry’s solution: go to the government for help.
In the short term, it will probably work. In the long term, it’s doomed to fail. Over the next ten years, watch as the American movie industry – as iconic as the American automobile industry, only with more cultural power – fades into oblivion with the help of people like Chris Dodd.