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Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) has begun discussing what the consequences are for the movie industry after its decision to hire a prominent Democrat to lead Hollywood’s lobbying operations in Washington.
Santorum raised the issue last week during a closed-door meeting with Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and a half-dozen other party leaders.
“Yeah, we had a meeting and, yeah, we talked about making sure that we have fair representation on K Street,” Santorum said Tuesday. “I admit that I pay attention to who is hiring and I think it’s important for leadership to pay attention.”
The discussion among Senate leaders came just days after the Motion Picture Association of America tapped former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) to serve as Hollywood’s top lobbyist and as the Biotechnology Industry Organization considers hiring another Democratic lawmaker, retiring Rep. Cal Dooley (Calif.).
Republican Members and lobbyists have made it clear that trade associations and corporations will get a better reception on Capitol Hill if they fill key lobbying posts with Republicans because the GOP controls the House, Senate and White House.
However, it is highly unusual for Senators to meet to discuss hiring decisions made by trade associations and corporations, and even more uncommon for a Senator to talk publicly about private-sector employment.
In this case, several Republican Senators echoed Santorum’s sentiment and said that Glickman carries significant baggage to his new role.
“If it was a Republican officeholder it would have been very good. He’s no Jack Valenti,” said Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), referring to the 81-year-old retiring president of the MPAA. “He’s a little more partisan.”
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) added: “He’s from Kansas — that’s not a movie center.”
The topic is so sensitive, said those familiar with the meeting, that Santorum would not even discuss the matter before the most trusted aides in the Republican leadership, including his own chief aide.
Before talking about MPAA’s decision to hire Glickman at a Republican leadership meeting last Tuesday, Santorum asked all of the Republican staff members at the weekly leadership meeting to leave the gathering, held in Frist’s conference room on the second floor of the Capitol.
On Tuesday, a week after he spoke to Republican leaders, Santorum said in an interview: “I’ve been very clear that I think it’s important to have a balance on K Street. For too long, there has been an imbalance.”
He added: “I’m not surprised that MPAA would pick someone who represents the values of Hollywood. But I am not too sure that that is effective to their approach if they are going to reach across the aisle.”
Santorum said that persuading lobbying organizations to hire more Republicans is key to ensuring that the GOP’s message is well communicated.
“It’s very important for us and our ability to communicate and to be persuasive to have people [on K Street] who are honest and not partisan,” he said.
Republican aides familiar with last week’s meeting said the movie industry can expect to face “ramifications” for its decision to hire Glickman, but not necessarily “consequences.”