Inside Move: Valenti, studios mull next MPAA topper

Dreier's possible for position

WASHINGTON — Conservative San Gabriel Valley Congressman David Dreier is among a list of candidates to succeed top Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti.

The MPAA prexy will meet with reps of the seven studios Monday in Beverly Hills to discuss possible successors.

While there is no firm timeline for a transition, goal is to wrap up the process by the end of the year if not before. Dreier is a shoo-in to make the early cut, as is Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.).

At Monday’s meeting each studio will submit their top five picks for the post. While there will likely be some overlap, the total list presented could theoretically include more than two dozen candidates.

Many of the same Washington players have also surfaced in the ongoing search to find the right person to take over the top spot at the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Everyone from former Pres. Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to Melissa Etheridge and Chaka Khan toasted RIAA topper Hilary Rosen in a video aired at a goodbye celebration in Washington Tuesday night. Rosen will leave the position next week.

Tauzin’s spokesman said he was never interested in the post and Dreier declined it.

Asked about his interest in the MPAA job, Dreier said he enjoyed his current job in Congress and added that it would be “unseemly” to discuss any opportunities or offers in the private sector. Dreier faces a 2004 term limit on the powerful Rules Committee chairmanship he holds but could obtain a waiver from Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to retain the gavel.

As a lawmaker from the Los Angeles area (San Dimas is his hometown), Dreier has strong ties to Hollywood and has led the charge to stem the flight of film production to Canada.

Late last year, he helped convince Hastert to take up the issue and both pledge to pass legislation this session that would provide tax incentives to keep production in the U.S. Dreier even received an award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last year for his work on the org’s runaway production committee.

Speculation that Tauzin is angling for the post and could leave Congress in the very near future has been making the rounds in Washington for months. Recently, the rumors became so rampant that other lawmakers began jockeying for Tauzin’s influential Commerce Committee chairmanship and House GOP leaders were forced to confront the Louisiana lawmaker about them.

Wednesday the lawmaker issued his most forceful denial to date. In a letter to his colleagues on the Commerce panel, Tauzin pledged to run for re-election in 2004 and to help fellow Republicans raise enough money to keep their seats as well. Tauzin’s promise to stay the course in Congress will not keep him off some studio’s shortlists because Hollywood understands how circumstances can alter even the best-laid plans.