'Millionaire' seg nixed by Senate ethics panel

WASHINGTON — Marketing hoopla over Touchstone’s “Pearl Harbor” has reached all the way to the U.S. Senate, where an ethics committee has dive-bombed a Mouse House plan to put several pols who are veterans on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

Stars from the film, including Ben Affleck, were also in talks to appear as contestants on the ABC gamer (Daily Variety, May 3). Proceeds from the “Millionaire” guest spots would have gone to the World War II Memorial fund.

Show would have taped over the weekend and aired the final weekend of sweeps. Instead, “Millionaire’s” producers were forced to sink the special edition.

Unfortunately for the would-be congressional contestants, Senate rules prohibit members from receiving honoraria exceeding $2,000, even if the money is going to a charitable cause.

Special screening

Disney, parent company of Touchstone, is paying Washington great deference in the days leading up to the pic’s bow. On May 24, the Mouse will throw a special screening for pols who served in the U.S. military.

“Millionaire” idea is said to have been hatched by Walt Disney topper Michael Eisner and former Sen. Bob Dole, who is moonlighting these days as a consultant/lobbyist for various Hollywood interests.

“As part of our due diligence, we took the idea to the Senate ethics committee,” a Disney spokesman said. “We thought this would be both a fun show as well as raising money for a worthy cause.”

Show would also have allowed American viewers to see pols in an entirely different environment, said another Hollywood exec.

Lawmakers tentatively slated to appear on the wildly successful game show included Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). Dole also was on the list.

Hopes were dashed late last week when the ethics panel said any such appearance would be a violation of the honoraria rule.

The Mouse, which had retained an outside ethics attorney, had hoped for an exception, but no such luck. And by the time the Senate nixed the guest spots, it was too late for “Millionaire’s” producers to secure the “Pearl Harbor” cast.

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