Did anti-Glickman Vendetta Torpedo Tax Break for Hollywood?

Speculation in Washington is that Hollywood got axed last night on a $246 million tax break because of a long-simmering feud. It all started in 2004, Bill Thomas, former Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and congressman from Bakersfield, exempted moviemakers from a bill that allowed other industries to write off 50% of their equipment costs under bonus depreciation rules.

Why? Apparently he was angry at Hollywood moguls for choosing a Democrat, former congressman and Clinton Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, as Jack Valenti’s successor after 38 years at the helm of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

Thomas, now a visiting fellow on trade issues at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, did not answer calls to his office.

But Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), who defended the write-off tax break on the Senate floor, told reporters that the provision “was taken out for no good reason. It was taken out for a personal reason, if I might be candid.” Baucus argued that the Senate’s vote, 52-45, to delete moviemakers from the bill amounted to “a vendetta against the industry.”

Baucus wouldn’t name names, but Congress Daily this morning cited sources saying that Thomas was the culprit.

Meanwhile a spokeswoman said that while the MPAA was “disappointed by the outcome,” the lobbying powerhouse will “not stop pushing for fiscal policies that keep our industry strong so we can continue to employ all the people it takes to create the high-quality entertainment products so many Americans love.”