Org, studios have not offered solon the job

WASHINGTON — D.C. insiders believe the timeline to name a successor to MPAA chief Jack Valenti is tied to the ability of Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) to pass controversial energy and Medicare bills by the end of this session.

If those measures are enacted, he could leave Congress for greener pastures at the Motion Picture Assn. of America early next year. Several industry sources over the past week and a half have insisted that Tauzin, chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce panel and an affable boot-stomping showman in his own right, will leave Capitol Hill for the glitzy Hollywood post and that it’s a done deal.

Not true, said Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson. “No one from the MPAA and no studio head or anyone who writes the checks and makes the decisions has offered Billy the job,” he said. But for the first time after months of speculation, Johnson acknowledged Monday that his boss would sit down and discuss the position if the studios came calling with a formal offer.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the top House leader, pulled Tauzin aside Friday for a private one-on-one chat to get a handle on all the speculation from the primary source.

“If in fact Jack Valenti retires, and in fact an offer is made, Billy said he’s going to listen to what (the studios) have to say,” Johnson said. “Why shouldn’t he? This is not a job that opens up every few years; it’s not like politics.”

Valenti, 81, fueled speculation when he said in a Monday New York Times profile that he hoped to retire next year.

It’s common knowledge that Valenti, a key aide in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, has decided it’s time to leave the high-intensity position and will devote his retirement to writing his memoirs. He has spent nearly four decades as Hollywood’s leading man in Washington and worked with seven presidents.

MPAA spokesman Rich Taylor will not discuss the timeline for Valenti’s departure, but was unequivocal that it has nothing to do with the current controversy over Oscar screeners.

“This is just another business decision he’s had to make in a long history of important decisions,” Taylor said. “And it was a step that needed to be taken to protect the industry. … Not all medicine tastes good.”

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