Women’s rights groups may be crowing about the announced resignation of Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), but there were no champagne corks popping Sept. 7 among D.C.’s clubby world of entertainment industry lobbyists.
The reason: Packwood has been one of the Senate’s leading champions of the interests of Hollywood, broadcasting and cable TV.
Industry will feel loss
“Everyone in the communications industry will feel the loss” of Packwood’s departure, says Jim Hedlund, president of the Assn. of Independent Television Stations. “He wasn’t one of those people who spouted off about the information highway. He really knew the issues. I can’t think of anyone in Congress who knew more about broadcasting.”
The five-term, 63-year-old senator resigned just a day after the Senate Ethics Committee voted 6-0 for his expulsion from Congress. The resignation followed a 2 1/2-year probe into charges of sexual misconduct and the allegation that Packwood altered and destroyed personal diary entries that had been sought as evidence by the ethics panel.
Packwood was an influential free-marketeer in Congress, aggressively arguing for decreased regulation of industry. He helped shepherd through 1984 legislation deregulating the cable industry, and later fought unsuccessfully to thwart passage of the 1992 cable re-regulation bill.
This year Packwood voted against sweeping infopike legislation that has been wending its way through Congress, claiming the bill doesn’t go far enough in deregulating industries.
In broadcasting, Packwood was perhaps best known for his ardent opposition to the Fairness Doctrine, a Federal Communications Commission rule that required radio and TV stations to air both sides of controversial issues. The rule was repealed in 1987, and though Democrats have tried to reinstate the reg on various occasions, it remains off the books.
Always considered “industry-friendly,” Packwood has never been afraid to take jabs at the legions of Capitol Hill lobbyists. He once told reporters attending a National Assn. of Broadcasters convention that the NAB “couldn’t lobby its way out of a paper bag.”
Intellectual property fight
Filmdom also has lost an important Beltway power player. Packwood has gone to bat on numerous occasions for Hollywood’s intellectual property interests as chairman of the influential Senate Finance Committee, and as chairman of the Senate communications subcommittee.
Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti said from Venice, where he’s attending the film festival, that he has been friends with Packwood for 25 years. “He’s a brilliant man,” Valenti said. “It’s a sad way to end a great career. Now he can go on with gathering up the rest of his life.”
Valenti also defended a financial contribution he once made to Packwood’s legal defense fund. “I don’t desert friends,” the MPAA chieftain says. “I’m not going to cut and run from friends of 25 years.”
Decker Anstrom, president of the National Cable Television Assn., says Packwood “has had a very distinguished career and has been an effective senator. We will miss him.”
In line to replace Packwood as head of the Senate Finance Committee is Delaware Republican William Roth, who Valenti says has been a strong supporter of Hollywood’s copyright interests in the past.