Former Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) won’t rule out lobbying as the head of Hollywood’s Washington trade group, despite pledging not to engage in the practice last year.
Dodd told The Hill in an interview Thursday that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) job “wasn’t on the horizon” when he told the Connecticut Mirror last August that he wouldn’t lobby after leaving office.
Now that he’s leading the MPAA, Dodd wouldn’t rule out the possibility of lobbying his former colleagues.
“We’ll cross that road in the future. I realize it’s part of the job. We’ll confront that at some point. In the meantime, I’ll be living by the letter of the law,” Dodd said.
Senators are legally bound to a two-year “cooling off” period for lobbying when they leave Congress, and cannot contact their former colleagues on behalf of a client until that period has passed. Dodd said he supported the measure and intends to adhere to both the spirit and letter of the law.
Dodd said he would be focusing his attention at the MPAA on other entities besides Congress that are important to the film industry at home and abroad.
“This business is global, a lot more than just lobbying. We have people who can do that — I wouldn’t necessarily be engaged in [lobbying] on a daily basis,” he said.
Dodd’s relationship with Hollywood goes back decades. He counts showbiz luminaries like actor Robert Redford, “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels and “Black Swan” producer Mike Medavoy as longtime friends. He also spent countless hours with the late Jack Valenti, a close friend of his father who was the MPAA’s iconic figurehead for nearly four decades.
“I think Jack would enjoy it immensely that the son of a close friend, a friend of himself, was taking on the job that he helped create years ago to give it new direction and definition,” he said.
Dodd said he was excited to take over “one of the best jobs in the private sector” and to represent an industry that employs 2.5 million Americans. He noted that even in countries where the U.S. is viewed with suspicion, American movies are often welcomed with open arms.
The Connecticut Democrat has experienced the power of Hollywood firsthand. To this day, he said, he’s still recognized more in public for a cameo in the 1993 movie “Dave” than for his long Senate career.
“After 36 years in public life dedicated to eradicating poverty, ignorance and disease, I’m basically better known for the 30 seconds on ‘Dave’ than anything else,” Dodd said.
Many have suggested Dodd’s job at the MPAA will be tougher than Valenti’s because of the increasingly corporate nature of film studios. With parent companies often competing fiercely against one another in foreign markets, observers predict that finding a consensus among members will be difficult.
Dodd acknowledged he had similar concerns, but said those fears were put to rest during a meeting with the studio bosses. He said they are eager to re-establish the MPAA as a strong, unified voice for the industry on K Street.
Dodd said the studio bosses insisted they are seeking leadership on a common set of issues including digital piracy, market access and intellectual property protections. He cited personal friendships with several of the studio chiefs as one reason why he took the job.
Dodd said the studio heads agree more than they disagree. “But we’ve got to start utilizing these [film industry] people to support the work that they do,“ he said.
“It’s a terrific business, but different today than it was. If Jack Valenti were alive, he’d be laughing if you suggested you had to go back and do the job the way he did it.”