I reached Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was among Dodd’s former colleagues who talked to him about taking the role of Hollywood’s chief lobbyist. As a studio chief told me, Leahy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) helped convince Dodd that he could work with the Hollywood crowd, not an easy bunch to rally.
After Dodd announced his retirement, “A number of people in the industry had asked me about him,” Leahy said, adding that he told them of “many very positive aspects about Chris.”
He sees similarities to Dodd and Jack Valenti in that “they are both great speakers with enormous energy,” but “this is an era that is so much different.”
“It’s not just the digital era but these are multimedia companies,” Leahy said. When it comes to issues to grapple with, “You have got everything from streaming videos to all the afterproducts to the enormous problem of counterfeiting….But Chris is someone who is indefatigable about getting into the issues. I am very satisfied in my mind they made the right choice.”
He also agreed that there was a need for the MPAA to change, with perceptions that the lobbying org has lost some of its luster in D.C.
“I think that the industry has changed very rapidly and I think there is a need for the MPAA to change and keep up with it,” he said.
Leahy said that Dodd had broached the idea of serving as a part time adviser to the MPAA, but it became clear that what the studio lobby was a full-time spokesman. “Certainly when he made up his mind he knew it was going to be full time,” Leahy said.
Leahy also dismissed any concerns that the Senate’s “revolving door” rules, which prevent recently retired senators from directly lobbying their former colleagues for two years, would hobble Dodd in his role.
“Jack Valenti never considered himself a lobbyist and never registered as a lobbyist,” he said. “He spoke more to policy.”