From Piracy to Comcast, Hollywood Comes Out a Midterm Winner

With an old friend as governor and corporate-friendly Republicans a national level, Tuesday was very, very good for this town

Hollywood woke up Wednesday morning to find that it actually might have more influence in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., than before the midterm elections.

Old Tinseltown pal Jerry Brown is back after almost 28 years as governor, as is fellow Democrat Barbra Boxer for her fourth consecutive term in the Senate. That, along with a Democratic majority in the California Assembly, is how it is in the Golden State.

Perhaps more importantly, Hollywood has a Republican Party that’s looking to make some new friends in control of the House of Representatives.

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The latter could be very beneficial to the entertainment industry’s bottom line – especially in terms of the still-pending $30 billion Comcast-NBC Universal merger and the war on piracy.

The GOP's pro-business bent "should be good for the movie studios, especially when it comes to protecting intellectual property," D.C.-based political consultant and former Motion Picture Association of America executive John Feehery told TheWrap.

Comcast, according to the Federal Election Commission, gave over $1.2 million to candidates of both parties this election season — almost double what they donated back in 2008 and before they were poised to take over NBCU. In terms of putting the brakes on piracy, the Republicans have proven staunch supporters of tough new legislation by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was re-elected for a seventh term in Vermont. That bill, presently weaving through the Senate, would shut down sites housing copyright-protected material.

The GOP has certainly had Hollywood’s bright lights and traditionally Democratic donors in its sights this election year. Prominent Republicans like Eric Cantor, in line to become House Majority Leader, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, perhaps looking towards a potential 2012 presidential run, laready have reached out to the entertainment community.

“This town is still very pro-Obama and pro-Democrat” a studio executive told TheWrap early on election night. “But it also knows you have to work with whose in power — and Republican topics like lower taxes are very popular here.”

Besides the agreement on taxes, the lack of Hollywood-bashing by the GOP during the election is probably the best sign of what the relationship between the party and the community is going to be in this new political reality.

In many ways, the Republicans have been more pro-Hollywood this year than at any time since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. 

Brown will likely prove as good a pal to the studios and networks as he did back in the '70s. His relationships with the deep pockets of Disney’s Bob Iger, Kirk Douglas, Sally Field, Laura and Casey Wasserman saw Brown take in a lot of money from execs and stars during the campaign.

In mid-October, Brown took in over $1.25 million at just one star-studded fundraiser Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen helped co-chair at Soho House.

Payback comes in many forms, especially in the pressure dome of California politics, but with the state’s hemorrhaging of tens of thousands of film and production jobs, as it has over the last decade, the new governor to be will have to address the tapped-dry tax credits program.

This year, the California Film Commission awarded $100 million in credits to 30 projects, most of which are set to film in and around L.A. But it had emptied its coffers by June – leaving dozens of projects, which will rise or fall on the 20 percent to 25 percent that can be put to state income tax or sales tax liabilities, sitting on a growing waiting list.

During the campaign against former eBay and Disney executive Meg Whitman, Brown repeatedly promised to help “key industries” in California like the entertainment business. While short on specifics, Brown spoke of extending state tax credits to keep productions filming and working in California from continuing to go to other states.

The only sour note for Hollywood: Though the race was still too close to call at 7 a.m. PT, GOP nominee for L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley declared victory at 11 p.m. over Democrat San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris for the job of California attorney general. Cooley, who failed in his quest to have Roman Polanski extradited back to the United States for raping a 13-year old girl, has few friends in Hollywood.

After a good night that saw old friends and new in power, the entertainment community might want to find some common ground with Cooley. The next job on his to-do list could be the office just re-won by Jerry Brown.

It would be a good thing to have him on Hollywood's side.