Annotating The Letter Disney's CEO Sent To Disney Employees Asking Them To Fund Disney's Sketchy Lobbying Activities

from the oh-really-now? dept

Here’s quite a scoop from Joe Mullin over at Ars Technica. Apparently, Disney is getting a bit desperate on the whole TPP thing. The company, which has been having a rough go of things because of the next generation not giving a shit about ESPN, decided to take things up a notch. CEO Bob Iger apparently emailed Disney employees asking them to contribute to DisneyPAC, specifically to help Disney pay for lobbyists to push the TPP across the finish line. They even made it so easy that employees can donate directly from their payroll. Here’s the letter, with some commentary (how can I resist?):

As we head into the election year of 2016, the electorate faces significant decisions about the direction of our Nation’s future. Besides choosing a new president, we will once again be electing new senators and representatives. These decisions will have a profound impact on the lives of all Americans. The election will also impact issues that affect our company. As such, we will continue to work with our representatives in Congress to ensure that they understand our perspective on critical issues like trade, intellectual property, tax, and travel policies. I write to urge you to consider supporting the Company’s efforts through a contribution to DisneyPAC. A well funded DisneyPAC is an important tool in our efforts to maintain our positive profile in Washington.

We’re a big giant company, and as such, we’ve stopped innovating. So we need to keep friends in Washington to protect us from innovation and competition. Please consider taking your hard earned money and giving it to us so we can keep doing that kind of thing.

In the past year, we successfully advocated the Company’s position on a number of issues that have a significant impact on our business. We played a major role in ensuring that the “Trade Promotion Authority” legislation set high standards for intellectual property (IP) provisions in our trade negotiations, and we helped get that bill through Congress. We used that language in TPA to advocate successfully for a strong IP chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. We also pushed for provisions to promote digital trade and to reduce barriers in media and entertainment sectors. TPP will establish a strong baseline of protection for intellectual property while breaking down trade barriers in the Asia Pacific region. In both TPA and TPP we had to overcome significant efforts to weaken respect for IP, pushed not only by foreign governments but also from within our own Congress and the Administration.

Have you heard about the TPP? It was negotiated in backrooms by special interests — but good news — we’re one of the big special interests! So we helped craft it and it’s got all sorts of goodies for us. Not the public, of course. Or even you workers. But it’s really awesome for Disney bosses.

The fight on these issues is far from over. Last year we spent significant time and effort engaged in a series of government reviews of the state of copyright law in the digital environment.

By the way, did we mention that 18 years ago we successfully extended copyright 20 years to keep Mickey Mouse from reaching the public domain, and we have two years left to do it again. Think of the Mouse, Disney employees. Think of the mouse!

We also continued to defend our right to be compensated for carriage of our programming by cable and satellite carriers as well as by emerging “over-the-top” services. With the support of the US Government we achieved a win in the Supreme Court against Aereo?an Internet service claiming the right to retransmit our broadcast signals without paying copyright or retransmission consent fees. With respect to tax issues, Congress extended certain provisions that provide favorable tax treatment for film and television production in the US. It also extended this treatment to live theatrical productions. Last year we also worked closely with the Administration on important veterans employment issues?an issue of critical importance for the men and women who defend our country and an area in which our company is proud to play a leadership role.

Yes, thanks to our efforts, we were able to destroy innovative technologies that consumers really liked! And now we’re losing customers who are ditching cable. But rather than help us innovate, please contribute more money so that we can shut down other new innovations. Because we’re Disney and thwarting innovation is just what we do these days.

In the coming year, we expect Congress and the Administration to be active on copyright regime issues, efforts to enact legislation to approve and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, tax reform, and more proposals to weaken retransmission consent, to name a few.

Can you believe those numbskulls in Washington? We already did this once and suddenly they’re back again, talking about the public interest and consumer rights and all that crap again. Please help us put an end to it.

On the trade front, we will also look to build on our achievements in other negotiations this year. 2016 should see significant activity in negotiations between the US and China over a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), continued negotiations with the European Union over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, the 50-country Trade in Services Agreement negotiations, and efforts by the US Government to raise IP standards and break down trade barriers through a variety of means.

We successfully got awesome anti-public / pro-Disney language into the TPP and now we can do it again in other trade deals. Go team! Help us lock up culture even more! And pretend it’s about “free trade.”

In 2016, Congress will further discuss various tax reform proposals. While comprehensive reform is unlikely, activity in the coming year will lay the foundation for what many expect to be a genuine opportunity for reform in early 2017. We have been active educating Members of Congress on the importance of lowering the corporate tax rate to be competitive with the rest of the world. The US has one of the highest marginal and effective tax rates among developed countries, creating a significant competitive impediment to companies headquartered in the US.

Because, yes, we know that you, dear Disney employee, are quite concerned about the tax rates of giant conglomerates like Disney. Please give us money to help us get a tax break! We may give you a free ticket to Disneyland in exchange. But no free music or movies. That’s bad.

Congress will continue to be very active on intellectual property issues… After three years of hearings and testimony from 100 witnesses, we now expect the House Judiciary Committee to turn to legislating. We expect significant attention on legislation to modernize the Copyright Office, a small agency that can have an enormous impact on our interests.

Did you hear about the newly nominated Librarian of Congress? We hear she actually cares about the public and open access, and that’s bad and must be stopped. At the very least, let’s rip the Copyright Office out from under her and put it in the hands of people who understand us better. And by “understand” I mean, will soon accept jobs from us when they “transition” out of government work.

And the Copyright Office has launched several proceedings involving possible changes to laws governing the accountability of online services and the laws protecting technologies used to secure distribution of digital content. These discussions obviously have significant implications for a business like ours that is dependent on copyright policy in the face of ongoing change in technology and the marketplace.

Did I mention our successful efforts in killing innovation? This is the next part of our plan. Like the internet? Fuck you. We’re Disney and we’re going to fuck it up. With your money, hopefully!

We will also need to continue our work to fend off growing and concerted efforts to weaken our ability to freely negotiate the distribution of our broadcast and cable programming. Last year, the FCC teed up several rule makings that could have a significant adverse affect on retransmission consent and how we package and sell our media networks. As the debate becomes much more heated, we will need to remain vigilant.

Did you notice how odd it was that the FCC suddenly seemed to be caring about consumers again? We can’t have that. We CANNOT have that. Please help us destroy the FCC. Sure your cable bills will be higher, and the internet will suck, but we’re Disney. We’ve got a mouse.

With all of the challenges we will face this year, it is important that our PAC be strong. We, therefore, respectfully suggest that you consider making a contribution of [REDACTED]. You may give more or less than the suggested amount (although no contribution can exceed $5000 in any year) and any contribution will be appreciated. As always, 100% of your contribution is used in direct support of candidates and political entities that uphold policies and principles that are consistent with the best interests of our company. DisneyPAC contributes equally to Democrats and Republicans each calendar year. For your convenience, DisneyPAC has implemented a payroll deduction system, through which your contributions to the PAC will be deducted from your weekly paycheck. If you prefer, you may instead make a one-time personal contribution to the PAC. Your contribution is important to all of us, but I want to emphasize that all contributions are voluntary and have no impact on your job status, performance review, compensation, or employment. Any amount given or the decision not to give will not advantage or disadvantage you. You have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Your help is truly appreciated.

We’ll take money straight from your paycheck and put it to work making corporate Disney’s life better. Not yours. Do that with whatever money you have left.

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Comments on “Annotating The Letter Disney's CEO Sent To Disney Employees Asking Them To Fund Disney's Sketchy Lobbying Activities”

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Bruce says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Unfortunately true. But if you’re serious about boycotting them, you can set things up so that all they get from you is ad revenue. 1) Cut the Cable TV cord – just about every basic package has ESPN and the local ABC affiliate, 2) stop going to the theatre – it’s too hard to figure out what is and isn’t funded by Disney or an affiliate, 3) be aware of franchise ownership and publishing ownership on the video games you buy. 4) Be aware of the ownership of YouTube channels (for example, Disney now owns the Polaris affiliate network).

Personally, I don’t care too much about this. When I was working for HP, they’d send emails asking to contribute to the corporate PAC 3 or 4 times a year. Don’t recall getting one from the corporate president though.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You do know that people can easily look that claim up with a simple search, right?

2015, Lobbying, ‘Top Spenders’: Alphabet Inc/Google – #12, roughly five and four million behind Boeing and General Electric respectively who took the #5 and #6 slots.

2014, Lobbying, ‘Top Spenders’: Google – #9, $190,000 behind Comcast at #8, $30,000 ahead Boeing Co at #10.

2013, Lobbying, ‘Top Spenders’: Google – #12, behind Comcast Corp(#7), General Electric(#10) and AT&T Inc (#11) by $3,010,000, $440,000 and $135,000 respectively.

1998-2015, Lobbying, ‘Top Spenders’: Google – Nowhere on list. Meanwhile General Electric takes #4 with $334,220,000, Boeing Co takes #10 with $225,923,310, Verizon #14 with $211,800,043, and AT&T takes #16 with $196,835,644.

Seriously, so long as Open Secrets exists, maybe rethink that easily debunked claim and try something else as a red herring.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Google’s lobbying is intended to convince legislators to allow them to innovate by countering laws intent on preventing them from innovating. For example laws designed to give incumbent ISPs exclusive regional rights of ways so that competitors can’t enter various markets.

Disney’s lobbying efforts are intent on creating laws that allow them to better monopolize the market. Most of their lobbying is monopolistic in nature.

The sad thing is that Google at least has the money and political influence/public reach to overcome the political barriers associated with keeping competitors out of various markets. What about a startup ISP that doesn’t have such reach that wishes to enter a market? The fact that it takes a huge company like Google to contribute so much money just to overcome these political barriers is the underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

True, they’ve now innovated a way to pay for all of their fancy lobbying without spending a dime! They’re geniuses!

What better way to control Congress, international trade, and the law than to have someone else pay you to do it! Why didn’t I think of this myself? I could have been a multi-million dollar CEO for Disney.

Next thing they should try to do is to have cities they film in pay for the movies they create, which they write off for losses so they don’t have to share in the profits. Oh wait a minute….

Richard (profile) says:

Think of the Mouse, Disney employees.

Disney apparently don’t care much about their employees

see this

So next time they try to spin the line about protecting jobs remember how much they REALLY care about their workforce!

Anonymous Coward says:

Disney wouldn’t be putting so much effort and money into politics if they didn’t get something in return. What they get in return is disproportional representation. Even they seem to admit that it is their lobbying efforts, not the public interest and it’s not that these laws are publicly being asked for, responsible for the expansion and extension of the laws they want. Some democracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Disney seems to be metastasizing into a galaxy class troll. I mean, if TPP passes they can effectively sue any nation for distributing culture for money they could have made, if they cared to even try. But in addition to that, they could sue any nation for copyright/patent/trademark infringement for creating any kind of culture thats “too similar” to the IP Disney holds.

Whats that? Your (insert rodent) just went viral? Well thats looks alot like Mickey! He’s a rodent too! Your nation needs to fork us 20 bagillion dollars now, you know, because we came up with the idea for rodents. Whats that? You want to contest our frivollous lawsuit? Too bad, we use special courts where poor people like you aren’t allowed. Wah wah.

Anonymous Coward says:

We've Got a Mouse

With suitable apologies to Mr. Hiddleston and Mr. Downey, Jr….


Cory: The citizens are coming. Nothing will change that. What have we to fear?

Bob Iger: The Plutocrats. That’s what we call ourselves; we’re sort of like a team. “Earth’s Richest Corporations” type thing.

Cory: Yes, we’ve met them.

Bob Iger: Yeah, takes us a while to get any traction, I’ll give you that one. But let’s do a head count here: a telecom with a Death Star logo, a US Presidential candidate with truly awesome hair, all the biggest employers in Detroit, and YOU, little brother, you’ve managed to piss off every single one of them.

Cory: That was the plan.

Bob Iger: Not a great plan. When they come, and they WILL, they’ll come for you.

Cory: We have an army.

Bob Iger: We’ve got a Mouse.

Cory: I thought the beast had wandered off…

Bob Iger: You’re missing the point! There’s no commons, there is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect our profits, you can be damned well sure we’ll avenge them!

ECA (profile) says:


Do we have to DEAL with the corps as IF they are judge and jury?

It USED to be that if a Corp needed to DO something that PAid out of the Upper profits…lOWERING Corporate wages at the top and so forth…
Thats HOW the CEO and the boss’s got a vote on What was to happen with the Top money…
Pay for adverts and get more business..

But no…they want their Cake and to EAT it also..

hopponit (profile) says:

“Your contribution is important to all of us, but I want to emphasize that all contributions are voluntary and have no impact on your job status, performance review, compensation, or employment. Any amount given or the decision not to give will not advantage or disadvantage you. You have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Your help is truly appreciated.” The fact this is laid out makes the point you REALLY DO need to worry about this!

Anonymous Coward says:

I read tis article on ars technica and didn’t really understand exactly WTH are “copyright fees” in this instance?

an Internet service claiming the right to retransmit our broadcast signals without paying copyright or retransmission consent fees

Do they refer to licensing fees or something else entirely?

IIRC the fall of Aereo was, basically, that it acted like cable but didn’t pay like cable.
Also any case for Copyright infringement was dismissed really, really early, again IIRC.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Your contribution is important to all of us, but I want to emphasize that all contributions are voluntary and have no impact on your job status, performance review, compensation, or employment. Any amount given or the decision not to give will not advantage or disadvantage you. You have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal.

This is a blatant First and Fourth Amendment violation, right there. How? Well I don’t believe one word of that guff about not being disadvantaged if they don’t contribute, i.e. this is forced speech.

And this is indeed unreasonable search; they have at their fingertips a record of who did or didn’t contribute to the PAC. Anybody found not contributing is likely to be laid off if they decide to make staff redundant.

How utterly creepy and very, very wrong.

They can say what they like about looking as kindly on those who don’t contribute as on those who do, but proving discrimination on the grounds of not contributing would be pretty hard, wouldn’t it?

So much wrong!

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