Bruised by the defeat of an anti-piracy bill two years ago, Hollywood’s chief lobbying organization is giving more money to outside political groups that support Republican lawmakers.
During the 2012 election cycle, the Motion Picture Association of America donated $200,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, an organization run by notorious GOP politico Grover Norquist, and $100,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another avowedly conservative group. Both groups spend millions in national elections to unseat Democrats.
In total, the MPAA spent $2.4 million on grants to outside groups — some Republican, some Democrat. That is over 20-times what it spent in 2009.
“The MPAA realized it had some setbacks in Congress and needed its political giving to reflect the political reality that the House is controlled by conservative Republicans,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of citizens for responsibility and ethics in Washington told TheWrap.
Sloan’s organization, which investigates the influence of money in Washington, issued a report Thursday about Hollywood’s chief advocate D.C. days before the Academy Awards.
“The MPAA is spending a lot of money courting Republicans and conservative organizations,” Sloan said, noting that Hollywood’s reputation as a bastion of liberalism does not triumph over practical business needs.
An MPAA spokeswoman acknowledged strategic changes at the organization in a statement given to TheWrap, but made no mention of political parties.
“MPAA has set out to change the way we communicate to reflect the changes in the way audiences and policymakers are interacting with creators and content,” the spokeswoman said, noting education efforts and direct communication with audiences through websites like WheretoWatch.org.
Spending more “dark money” on these groups is one of several changes the MPAA has made under the leadership of Christopher Dodd, a former Senator from Connecticut who assumed control of the MPAA in 2011. At the end of 2013, the MPAA cut ties with four of its seven outside lobbying firms, and they spent $2.16 million on lobbying last year — the most it has spent since 2008.
That was the year Barack Obama got elected President, and Democrats solidified their control of the House. Much has changed since then, as Republicans took control of the House and the MPAA suffered a stinging defeat in its fight for the Stop Online Piracy Act. The MPAA’s budget, which dipped to $50 million in 2010, climbed back to $70 million in 2012.
“It is a dramatic increase in spending,” Sloan said. “Some of it has to be contributed to the changing times and environment, both politically and with the rise of the Internet.”
Speaking in Berlin earlier this month, Dodd said the entertainment industry stood at a crossroads. He referred to issues with piracy abroad, as several nations have debated laws Dodd fears will enable piracy.
Yet Dodd faces a dilemma at home as well, as piracy has never been an easy fight for Hollywood. Civilians do not view piracy with the same contempt that media companies do, as Congresswoman Judy Chu told TheWrap last year. Hollywood’s fight against piracy often sends the wrong message.
An MPAA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about the report, but Chu praised the organization’s shift.
“It is smart of the MPAA to reach out to everybody,” she told TheWrap. “They would obviously have to reach out to Republicans because Republicans are in control of the house and have the chairs of the key committees that affect them.
The chair of the judiciary committee, which has all jurisdiction over copyright, is Republican.