Study: Film industry beefing up lobbying

The film lobby has been dramatically beefing up its presence in Washington by giving millions of dollars to lobbyists and nonprofit political groups, according to a watchdog organization’s report.

Ahead of the Academy Awards on Sunday, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) increased its spending on nonprofit political groups by more than 2,000 percent between 2009 and 2012. 

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Some of the groups benefiting from the contributions are the same ones that the film lobby joined with in a failed 2012 push to get anti-piracy bills passed in Washington.

“In the past, the MPAA relied on glamour and private screenings to influence Congress. No longer. Now it is all about money and connections,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) sought to protect intellectual property rights online, but many members of the tech industry worried that the bills could give the government power to censor the Web.

Major websites like Google and Wikipedia took part in an online protest against the bills, which was seen as the first major display of the online industry’s might to affect Washington.

Since that defeat, the MPAA has hired the former chief counsel on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Neil Fried, to lead its lobbying team. This year it hired two more lobbyists: former staffers for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

The trade group spent more than $2 million on lobbying last year, an increase of about 11 percent from 2012.

It has also increased the amount of grants it makes to nonprofits, including groups involved in politics like Americans for Tax Reform and the Chamber of Commerce.

Both groups were supporters of the SOPA and PIPA bills, and the Chamber is currently lobbying on intellectual property “issues related to Internet counterfeiting and piracy,” among other topics, according to recent federal disclosures.