WASHINGTON — Under fire from Republicans, incoming Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Dan Glickman is already canvassing the GOP to find a candidate for one of the org’s top posts.
Three weeks after the MPAA announced Glickman’s hire, Republicans on Capitol Hill and K Street are still seething about the studios’ decision to bypass former Pentagon spokesman Victoria Clarke, the top GOP candidate for the job, as well as several other Republicans. Instead, the studios chose Glickman, who served as agriculture secretary under Bill Clinton and spent 20 years as a Democratic congressman.
For years Republicans in Washington have made it clear that they want trade orgs to hire GOP candidates for their top posts: Industries should choose Republicans or face the legislative consequences, the not-so-subtle GOP messages goes.
Hollywood ignored these warnings in naming Glickman. But he realizes it’s up to him to reach out and attempt to mend fences.
Glickman won’t officially assume the MPAA mantle until Sept. 1, but he started making calls to Republican lawmakers just days after he was publicly named to succeed Jack Valenti.
There were no signs in recent days of Republican anger abating. In fact, Senate GOP conference chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) recently discussed the fallout of the decision during a closed-door meeting with Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and other party leaders.
In such a hostile atmosphere, Glickman has also started putting out feelers for possible GOP candidates for a top-tier post at the org — either a veep for congressional affairs post or a No. 2 position.
MPAA spokesman Rich Taylor acknowledged that Glickman is already searching for a new person to fill the veep of congressional affairs post. That MPAA lobbyist has the most direct, day-to-day contact with Capitol Hill. Taylor would not confirm, however, that Glickman is considering only Republicans.
That job is expected to open once Jon Leibowitz becomes a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission. His nomination is currently stuck in the Senate but is expected to be approved in September.
Republican insiders insist that a select group of GOP lobbyists and senior-level aides have been approached for the MPAA’s No. 2 position, whose occupant would operate as a chief operating officer and director of Republican outreach.
Glickman or intermediaries acting on his behalf have quietly approached a number of Republicans including Makan Delrahim, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Dept.’s antitrust division. He previously worked as chief counsel on the Judiciary Committee under Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a major showbiz ally.
Delrahim did not return phone calls seeking comment.
But the studios will likely face some of the same challenges they did in finding someone to fill Valenti’s boots. The studios reportedly ponied up $1.5 million for Glickman’s salary, but top lobbyists and aides can make as much or more in the private sector.
Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who chairs the GOP Entertainment Caucus and was briefly considered a candidate for the top MPAA post, said Glickman called him a few days after he was named to express his commitment to finding “common ground” on important showbiz issues.
During the conversation, Glickman also asked Foley for names of potential GOP candidates to fill the VP of congressional affairs job.
Foley said he didn’t offer any names but was encouraged by the effort to address Republicans’ resentment over his selection.
Grover Norquist, a key GOP strategist who heads the campaign to hire more Republicans lobbyists in town, known as the K Street Project, was less forgiving.
“I think (the studios) underestimated what a mistake this was,” he said. “I have never seen the Hill as angry and livid about anything in all my time in Washington.”