Report: Hollywood Studios Including Netflix Used Lobbyists to Win California Lockdown Exemptions

SINGAPORE - NOVEMBER 09: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings speaks during an interview on day two o
Ore Huiying/Getty Images for Netflix

As small businesses around California struggle to stay afloat amid the latest round of stay-at-home orders, Hollywood studios are able to keep the cameras rolling thanks to the work of highly paid lobbyists whom the studios reportedly hired to sway state politicians, including Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

The Intercept reported that major studios including Disney, Netflix, and Paramount hired pricey lobbying firms to bend Gov. Newsom’s ear, successfully persuading him to declare the entertainment industry as “essential” and thus exempt from the state’s lockdown orders.

Paramount has reportedly spent at least $85,000 this year on the “essential business” rules developed by state agencies in California, while Warner Bros. spent $22,500 this year on a lobbying firm that contacted the governor’s office for “COVID/OUTREACH, TV/FILM PRODUCTION,” according to a company disclosure.

The Motion Picture Assn., which itself is Hollywood’s main lobbying arm, spent $45,000 on lobbyists to shape the “COVID-19 Reopening of film/tv sector.”

The Intercept noted that Netflix hired a lobbying firm called Axiom Advisors, founded by Jason Kinney. Last month, Kinney was reportedly among the partygoers at the French Laundry restaurant where Gov. Newsom was photographed mingling indoors without wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

Kinney is a “lobbyist for a number of interests seeking to shape the rules governing life under the pandemic, including what kind of economic activities are deemed essential in order to stay in business,” The Intercept stated.

Netflix has increased its spending on lobbyists this year, reportedly shelling out an average of $70,725 a quarter to firms including Axiom, up from $24,437 a quarter last year.

During the pandemic, many Hollywood celebrities have urged people to avoid leaving their homes as much as possible. Stars including Taylor Swift, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ariana Grande, and Lady Gaga have urged their fans to limit their outside activity.

Hollywood’s exemption has enraged some small businesses, including restaurants and bars, which are facing dire economic prospects as people are being told they can’t leave their homes except for essential activities.

Last week, a saloon owner in Sherman Oaks recorded a video that went viral, in which she excoriated Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and Gov. Newsom after a TV shoot to set up an outdoor eating area just feet from her establishment.

Celebrity chef Andrew Gruel, founder and executive chef of Slapfish Restaurant, has said he will refuse to comply with state orders to shut down outdoor dining, calling Gov. Newsom an “asshole.

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