MPAA, Take II

Posted February 20, 2004 at 5:29pm

For the second time in as many months, a superstar from Congress has turned down a blockbuster offer from Hollywood to become the head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

This time, retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) has rejected a million-dollar-per-year offer in which he was asked to accept the glamorous assignment of replacing current president Jack Valenti when he steps down later this year. [IMGCAP(1)]

As first reported by Daily Variety, Breaux turned down the MPAA job in part because he did not want to accept a position that was first offered to his colleague and former roommate, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.).

As a source put it, Breaux did not want Tauzin’s “sloppy seconds.”

This is the second time Breaux has taken his name out of consideration for the MPAA job.

Last year, when Tauzin was being considered for the job, Breaux said he

would not want to work for the MPAA on a full-time basis.

But MPAA officials took another run at Breaux in the days after Tauzin turned down an offer from the association — only to be rejected once again.

Breaux’s decision leaves several prominent Republican lawmakers in contention, including House Rules Chairman David Dreier (Calif.) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.), now an actor on NBC’s “Law and Order.”

Another candidate mentioned for the post is Matt Gerson, a former Democratic aide who now serves as a top lobbyist for Vivendi-Universal.

Meanwhile, Valenti has accepted a part-time gig with the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He will focus on the group’s work one day a week.

K Street Online. Washington insiders have long known about the Republicans’ clandestine campaign to track political donations from law firms, lobbyists and corporations to the political parties.

The goal of Republicans such as conservative activist Grover Norquist and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is to shine a spotlight on those who continue to send political checks to Democratic causes even though Republicans have controlled both chambers of Congress for nearly a decade.

Turns out the ominously named “K Street Project” is not as stealthy as some people believe.

For the past year, the purportedly closely guarded document has been posted on Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform Web site (www.atr.org/kstreet/index.html) for all to see.

Norquist has also hired a staffer to continually update the document with the latest contributions information compiled from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Web site that tracks political contributions.

The contribution data on the site is broken down by company, lobbying firm and trade association. For each category, Norquist lists registered lobbyists and their donations to Republican and Democratic candidates in the past three years.

Norquist says that by keeping track of political contributions from K Street — and publicizing the information on his Web site — lobbyists are more likely to steer their campaign checks to GOP causes.

“Just by having a list and sharing it has made some of these guys very supportive of Republicans,” Norquist said. “It’s a good way of making sure that they understand that the leadership knows who has been helping.”

A quick survey of the list shows that only a few GOP lobbyists gave heavily to the Republican Party and candidates last year.

Big givers include Jack Abramoff of Greenberg Traurig; Gary Andres of the Dutko Group; David Bockorny of Bergner Bockorny Castagnetti & Hawkins; Bruce Gates of Washington Council; Henry Gandy of the Duberstein Group; Larry Harlow of Timmons & Co.; Gregg Hartley of Cassidy & Associates; Ken Kies of Clark Consulting; Jeff MacKinnon of Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon; and Dan Mattoon of Podesta Mattoon.

Meanwhile, some of the GOP’s biggest guns on K Street have barely reached into their wallets to help Republican candidates. It turns out that Norquist himself contributed just $347 from his own pocket through the end of 2003, according to the CRP.

Baker Donelson Consolidates. In a move to build a multistate public affairs practice, Tennessee law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has consolidated its Nashville-based subsidiary.

The new entity, Public Strategies Group, will work with the firm’s Washington-based public policy practice and will handle state-level affairs in Tennessee and surrounding states.

Baker Donelson, the largest law firm between Atlanta and Dallas, also announced last week the opening of a new office in New Orleans.

Navigators Signs More Clients. The Navigators lobbying shop is only about a year old, but the GOP-run firm continues to sign up clients like a K Street veteran.

In the past few weeks, the firm has inked deals with Gate Safe Inc. and the National Gas Vehicle Coalition.

Two of the four partners at the firm, Jim Pitts and Cesar Conda, once worked for Energy Secretary and former Sen. Spence Abraham (R-Mich.).