Washington, D.C.—The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been revamping its Washington, D.C., influence operation, according to “Best Supporting Industry,” a new report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Among the highlights, the report finds a 2,134-percent increase between 2009 and 2012 in the MPAA’s grants to non-profit groups, including so-called “dark money” political groups that were MPAA’s allies during their failed anti-piracy legislation push in 2012.
“While many are focusing on who will take home an Oscar this Sunday, CREW peeked behind the curtain to reveal how the film industry aims to win over Washington. Dark money is flooding the political landscape, and the MPAA is in on the game,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.
In early 2012, the MPAA battled the technology industry over the fate of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), bills targeting foreign websites hosting pirated content. Tech companies argued the legislation, claiming they would choke off innovation and lead to a more restricted Internet for users. Facing widespread backlash, Congress did not bring these bills to a vote.
CREW’s report reveals that the MPAA’s PAC giving is fairly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. In the 2012 election cycle, however, the MPAA contributed $2.4 million to other organizations, including conservative dark money groups that attack Democratic candidates: Americans for Tax Reform received $200,000, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $100,000 and Let Freedom Ring, $20,000. All three backed the anti-piracy legislation.
Other changes the MPAA made following its defeat on SOPA and PIPA include:
- Hiring Neil Fried, formerly a high-level House Republican staffer, as lead lobbyist;
- Increasing federal lobbying spending in 2013 to $2.16 million, up 11 percent compared to 2012; and
- Severing contracts with four of its seven outside lobbying firms at the end of 2013.
“In the past, the MPAA relied on glamour and private screenings to influence Congress. No longer. Now it is all about money and connections,” Ms. Sloan added.