When Corruption Fails: Hollywood Has 'Turned Off The Critical Thinking Functions Of Many Democrats'
from the a-scratched-back-isn't-immune-to-backlash dept
The Washington D.C. revolving door that turns policymakers into lobbyists and stocks corporate boardrooms with former lawmakers and advisors has been the accepted norm for so long it takes a supremely audacious act to inspire any sort of outrage.
A long piece for the New Republic written by Noam Scheiber details the large number of former Obama team members moving into the private sector, leveraging their administration connections to start lucrative consulting firms. Nearly anything goes without anyone inside the administration blinking an eye -- provided certain political lines aren't crossed.
[W]hile joining a consulting firm is acceptable, those who do are reluctant to work for clients reviled by liberals: gun makers, tobacco companies, Big Oil, union busters.This is acceptable behavior. Don't be shy about cashing in on your political connections but don't embarrass anyone by courting unacceptable clientele. It's a good piece and worth a read, but there's a really damning statement hidden in the article that Matt Yglesias highlights over at Slate.
The big through-line in Noam Scheiber's piece on former Obama administration officials cashing in is that there are certain sensitivities and levels of mixed feelings. And after all it makes sense. If you're trying to parlay your connections and inside knowledge into financial gain, you can't go do things that anger all your former colleagues. But he does note one exception that I think is important and actually more pernicious than the other examples he explores in more detail:
As Yglesias puts it, former pols and administration insiders have to take care to avoid being caught "defending indefensible positions" while spinning their Washington connections into private sector gold. Those moving from the political world to the entertainment industry, however, find they don't need to be quite as careful.
There’s also the entertainment industry, which is “a for-profit corporate space that’s a safe area for Democrats,” says a former White House staffer. “You can go work for Harvey Weinstein and make all this money.” Obama aide Michael Strautmanis recently left to help oversee “corporate citizenship” at Disney, and Jim Gilio, a White House spokesman, now represents talent at a Los Angeles entertainment law firm.
[I]n high-level Democratic Party circles, the entertainment industry is somehow seen as different from other corporate sectors—intrinsically viewed with less suspicion. And that's when your corporate lobbying gets extremely effective and when the policy consequences can get really pernicious.Even with the failure of SOPA last year and the ongoing debacle that is the prosecution of Kim Dotcom, federal agencies are still running errands for Hollywood. ICE still regularly seizes sites and the DOJ continues to pursue extradition for overseas copyright infringers. This cozy relationship ensures that Hollywood's interests continue to be well-represented, even if its favored legislation failed miserably. But this relationship, as long-lasting (and profitable) as it has been for both sides, is doing damage to the credibility of the Democratic Party.
[H]ollywood has really managed to turn off the critical thinking functions of many Democrats, leading to a situation where the backlash against SOPA/PIPA had to be lead by Republicans.All the back scratching in the world doesn't help when everyone's whose back isn't getting scratched rises up against you. A huge opportunity was wasted by Democrats and by the administration itself. When the internet began pushing back, the party headed by the new face of politics (i.e., not another old, white guy) reacted much too slowly, allowing the opposition to seize the victory. Hollywood's symbiotic relationship with Democrats was far too ingrained to result in anything but a delayed reaction. As Yglesias puts it, the corruption's now so deep it's no longer recognized as corruption.
How else do you explain MPAA head Chris Dodd publicly threatening to cut off the flow of money to politicians who voted against SOPA? The corruption was always there, right below the surface, but it took a moment like this, where legislators were forced to decide between pleasing a powerful industry or dropping their support for a politically toxic bill, for it to noisily break the surface. Many politicians chose the option that seemed more likely to preserve their careers, and the MPAA, unused to being ignored, lashed out.
Hollywood may not forgive and forget, but it does know where the power lies and has the money to purchase access. The fallout from the SOPA disaster is that the Democrats' failure to quickly alter course has turned IP legislation into a partisan issue. The entertainment lobby still holds some sway over Republicans. Derek Khanna's swiftly disappearing copyright reform memo (and almost as swiftly-disappearing job) are evidence of that. But there's enough of a wedge present to prevent the smooth passage of any copyright-related legislation.
Hollywood may still be a safe haven for Democrats to earn some post-D.C. money but it's hard to believe the sheen hasn't worn off a bit at this point -- on both sides of the revolving door.