WASHINGTON -- Hell hath no fury like a lobbyist scorned. Former Democratic senator and current head of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd threatened to cut off campaign contributions from Hollywood to the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama.
In an interview with Fox News about the White House's recent statement on controversial anti-piracy legislation, Dodd said:
Candidly, those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake ... Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake."
I would caution people don't make the assumption that because the quote 'Hollywood community' has been historically supportive of Democrats, which they have, don't make the false assumptions this year that because we did it in years past, we will do it this year ... These issues before us -- this is the only issue that goes right to the heart of this industry."
The White House released a statement on the anti-piracy bills on Jan. 14 that, while calling for some kind of legislation to be passed, echoed critics of the bills supported by Dodd and the movie industry. That hasn't sat well with Hollywood lobbyists like Dodd, who seemed stunned by the reversal in fortune for their prized legislation in the past week.
As The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday, the anti-piracy fight put the White House in the middle of a major battle between two nearly equally matched donor communities in the Democratic Party: Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Both industries gave $9 million to the president's election campaign in 2008 and are nearly evenly matched this time around.
Despite Dodd's threats, there have been few signs that Hollywood money is slow in coming for Obama's reelection. His top donor is DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has raised at least $500,000 for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee and contributed $2 million to a super PAC backing the president. Obama has also held fundraising events at the mansions of Hollywood executives and at movie studio lots.
The threat of withholding money may actually do more harm than good for Dodd's efforts. A public quid pro quo threat, makes it more difficult for the White House to move from its current stand on the legislation.
Adam Smith, communications director for Public Campaign, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog, told The Huffington Post that Dodd's threat seemed "desperate" and represented "a shining example of what's wrong with our political system, where you have this one industry trying to force the hand of policymakers with this threat that is basically blackmail."
Dodd's outburst comes one day after Internet companies and activists blacked out Web sites across the Web in protest of both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The blackout, which included Wikipedia, Google, reddit, Craiglist, and ICanHazCheezburger, was matched by a campaign to get visitors to those sites to ask their representatives in Washington to oppose the bills. Close to two dozen lawmakers, mostly Republicans, responded to the campaign by announcing that they were switching their position to oppose the legislation as currently drafted.
"Some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns," Dodd said of the blackout campaign.
(AOL Inc., HuffPost's parent company, is lobbying against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has met with President Obama.)