MPAA’s Preview List

Posted January 30, 2004 at 5:18pm

Even though Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) has rejected a hefty offer to take over the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood does not have to head back to square one in its search to replace longtime President Jack Valenti. [IMGCAP(1)]

Industry sources say retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and California Republican Reps. Mary Bono and David Dreier are back in the running for the prized position.

Predictably, the Members of Congress are keeping quiet.

Though Breaux told Roll Call last year that he was not interested in representing MPAA on a “full-time basis,” his stance seems to have softened since Tauzin turned down the job.

When asked if he has been contacted by Valenti about the job since Tauzin declined, Breaux snapped: “No comment.”

Bono spokeswoman Kimberly Pencille agreed that her boss’s background in the entertainment industry makes her a “logical choice,” but she said Bono “has every intention of running for re-election.”

“At this time, she has had no communication with the MPAA to discuss the job,” Pencille added.

One intriguing name on the MPAA’s new list: Tom Wheeler, the recently departed chief of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association.

Like Breaux, Wheeler is a Democrat — something that the seven movie company heads on the West Coast might prefer.

What’s more, unlike the Members of Congress, Wheeler has a proven track record for running a major Washington trade association.

Federalist Group Merges With Berman. Two well-respected GOP lobbying firms are combining to create the largest all-Republican lobbying shop in Washington.

The Federalist Group and Berman Enterprises announced last week that they will become partners, creating a firm that will generate about $12 million a year in Congressional and state-level lobbying revenues.

The Federalist Group’s partners said they believe the combination will be enough to place it among Washington’s top 10 lobbying firms.

The new firm will represent CitiGroup, Disney, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Time Warner, among others.

The Federalist Group is headed by Stewart Hall, a one-time aide to Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.); John Green, a former aide to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.); Drew Maloney, a top aide to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas); and former Treasury Department official Patrick Cave.

Berman is a Republican Party loyalist and one of President Bush’s top fundraising Rangers.

MCI Begins to Rebuild. Rich Fruchterman, the head of MCI’s lobbying operations, is retiring more than a decade after starting with the beleaguered long-distance company.

Fruchterman’s departure, which comes as MCI emerges from bankruptcy, signals the beginning of MCI’s efforts to rebuild its Washington office.

After starting with MCI in 1990, Fruchterman moved on to WilTel, which was later acquired by WorldCom and MCI.

During his most recent stint with the company, Fruchterman helped MCI navigate through a series of storms on Capitol Hill, including Congressional investigations into faulty accounting at WorldCom and an effort to block MCI from receiving government contracts.

Wal-Mart Builds PAC. In one of the first signs it’s ramping up its Washington presence, Wal-Mart’s latest campaign finance report shows that America’s largest retailer has already donated more money to Congressional candidates than it did in all of 2001 and 2002.

The $1.4 million in contributions in 2003 puts Wal-Mart on pace to demolish its record-high of just less than $1.3 million in the previous election cycle.

If Wal-Mart keeps up the pace, it will donate more political dollars in the 2003-04 election cycle than it has in the previous two decades combined, according to Political

Qorvis Nabs New Client. Rich Masters, one of Qorvis Communications’ newest hires, has signed up the National Urban League as a client.

As part of the deal, Qorvis will handle most of the advertising for the Urban League, in addition to helping the nonprofit housing organization plan a major jobs summit this spring.

Qorvis is already hard at work. Last week, it publicized a new Urban League study that found that black and other low-income Americans are suffering more than whites during the so-called “jobless” recovery.