Business banking on Berman

Politician to take over subcommittee that oversees intellectual property issues

Howard Berman, the Dem congressman whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, Studio City and the Hollywood Hills, has long been a big beneficiary of entertainment industry bucks — just over $1 million, since 1989.

Now, with Berman set to take over the chairmanship of the House subcommittee that oversees intellectual property issues, the biz is poised to like him even more.

Just don’t expect a rubber stamp.

Berman has been an effective and savvy advocate for showbiz, says former MPAA topper Jack Valenti, noting the congressman’s significant help in stopping an attempt to repeal the financial interest/syndication rule in the 1980s. But Berman’s also careful in picking his issues.

“He has a great knowledge of how to move things through Congress, but he’s also fair,” Valenti says. “You’ve got to convince him you’ve got a good case. He delves into both sides of an issue very deeply.”

Berman’s voting record largely hews to the Dem party line, which ought to please showbiz’s liberal majority. But last June, he broke with his party — and liberals — by voting for a GOP resolution to show support for the Iraq war and by refusing to set a timetable for troop withdrawal.

That might not sit well with Oliver Stone, Steven Spielberg, Edgar Bronfman, Ron Burkle, David Geffen, Don Henley, Bob Iger, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Meyer, Ron Meyer, Norm Pattiz, Sydney Pollack, Rob Reiner or Bud Yorkin — among the many in showbiz who have given Berman campaign funds.

When he meets with industry insiders, Berman says, “they’re usually focused on issues directly concerning them, like IP. But many are friends and we talk and discuss and debate a lot of things. I’ve found that they can strongly disagree with my views but still respect what I do.”

“But I want to be clear,” Berman adds. “Had I known then what I know now, I never would have voted to authorize going into Iraq. But now that we’re there, we’ll pay a large price for not staying.”

Berman also expects he’ll be spending “a great deal of time” on another of his priority issues — solving the problem of illegal immigration. as well as patent reform.

But the industry is clearly hoping Berman will maintain his staunch defense of IP rights.

“He understands that piracy hurts not only the movies but jobs in all of America,” says John Feehery, a key MPAA lobbyist .

Berman also possesses a quality increasingly hard to find in D.C. — and Hollywood, for that matter: “He doesn’t thrive on media attention,” Feehery adds. “He’s a workhorse, not a show horse.”

That alone ought to guarantee he’ll accomplish much for his constituents.