Dodd to be Hollywood's top man in Washington

Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will be Hollywood’s leading man in Washington, taking the most prestigious job on K Street.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) named Dodd chairman and CEO on Tuesday. He will start his new job on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.

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But heading Hollywood’s lobbying arm could be problematic for the former senator, who accepted the kind of job he pledged not to take.

“No lobbying, no lobbying,” Dodd told the Connecticut Mirror last August, when asked about his plans after leaving office.

It is not uncommon for former lawmakers to join lobbying shops upon retirement, but Dodd’s previous comments are sure to invite questions.

Lawmakers are legally prohibited from registering as a federal lobbyist for two years after leaving office, but they can work at firms without directly lobbying their former colleagues.

The MPAA didn’t respond to questions about whether Dodd would register as a lobbyist in two years.

Dodd’s hiring, which had been rumored for weeks, ends months of media speculation regarding who would take one of the most glamorous jobs on K Street, whose perks include a $1.2 million-a-year salary and getting to attend the Academy Awards ceremony.

Dodd has longstanding ties to the film industry: His wife, Jackie Clegg, was a director at Blockbuster until last year; he counts "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels among his close friends; and he has dated actress Carrie Fisher. Dodd also appeared as himself in the movie "Dave" and was acknowledged in the credits of "Evita."

Dodd, who retired from the Senate in January after three decades in office, succeeds former Chairman Dan Glickman. Bob Pisano has served as interim MPAA chief since last year.

“Sen. 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. I, along with my colleagues, agree that he was worth the wait,” said Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos in a statement, joining his fellow studio bosses in cheering Dodd’s hiring.

MPAA spent a year searching for the new head of its D.C. office. Dodd’s hiring comes after the organization’s unsuccessful pursuit of former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), which prompted reports of how the MPAA has lost its luster since the heyday of iconic former boss Jack Valenti. The increasingly corporate nature of Hollywood is often cited as a root cause.

"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,” Dodd said in a statement.

“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.”

In his last years in the Senate, Dodd, as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, took the lead in the legislative overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system but was dogged by reports he received favorable treatment on two personal loans from Countrywide Financial, a notorious provider of sub-prime mortgages. The Senate Ethics Committee found Dodd did not violate any ethics rules.

He was also a presidential contender in 2008, moving to Iowa in a bid to capture the Democratic nomination. His attempt failed, and Connecticut voters expressed their unhappiness with Dodd’s move to another state.

His move to the MPAA comes with the tough task of getting the fiercely competitive member studios to coordinate their policy goals.

He also will likely look to reorganize the D.C. operation, which has been focused on intellectual property in recent months after experiencing a 20 percent budget cut during the height of the recession.

Pisano told The Hill last month that combating online piracy is the movie industry's top priority, arguing pirated films erode the industry's revenue streams and jeopardize the jobs of the 2.5 million Americans its employs.

The MPAA is one of the strongest backers of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, which the committee is planning to take up after an expected vote by the full Senate on patent reform this week. Leahy has predicted a version of the bill will pass Congress this year.

The nascent online video marketplace is another area expected to become a focus for the MPAA under Dodd. The Federal Communications Commission attached a number of measures to the NBC Universal-Comcast merger intended to protect competition in that arena.

The MPAA will likely play a large role in hammering out the rules of the road for Web content distributors seeking to stream films online, particularly with regard to recent releases. Pisano noted the industry has already begun experimenting with streaming first-run movies directly into homes ahead of their DVD release date.

— Jordan Fabian contributed to this story.

— This story was updated at 5:37 p.m.