K Street Files: Netflix Hires ‘at Large’ Lobbyist; Thorn Run Expands

Posted January 7, 2011 at 5:33pm

Netflix, whose ubiquitous red DVD envelopes are quickly giving way to direct online transmission, has officially brought on its first in-house registered lobbyist, Republican Michael Drobac.

Since 2005, the Los Gatos, Calif., company has used outside help to press its legislative agenda, retaining Patton Boggs and Monument Policy Group, Senate records show.

In an interview Thursday, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey declined to elaborate much on the hire. “We’ve had a presence, but we’re a little more visible now,” he said.

While Drobac will be a full-time employee, Swasey said Netflix is not joining its tech-sector brethren in opening a swanky Washington, D.C., office. Swasey said Drobac, who did not respond to a request for comment, will be “at large.”

“I don’t know where he works,” Swasey said.

According to Secretary of the Senate records, Drobac in 2010 represented the online travel agency Expedia.com and the Online Publishers Association. He’s also a one-time GOP staffer to Senate Commerce ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), as well as to then-Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.), who now runs the National Association of Broadcasters.

A tech industry source said Netflix’s new hire comes as no surprise. As the entertainment distributor migrates its business away from the U.S. Postal Service toward television set-top boxes like Apple TV, it will draw the eye of the Federal Communications Commission and other content providers.

“They’re in a different industry now; they’re in the business of streaming movies over the Internet and everything’s changed,” the source said. “There are companies that are competing, and there are a lot bigger and more visible issues. … There’s great opportunity for more government interaction.”

K Street Moves

Thorn Run Partners has hired Sara van Geertruyden to be part of the lobbying firm that was launched last year by Ogilvy Government Relations veterans, Democrat Andy Rosenberg and Republican Chris Lamond.

A health policy expert, van Geertruyden had previously worked at Patton Boggs, which she joined in 2003. At Patton Boggs she represented a number of health care clients, including hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies and health provider associations. Prior to that the Louisiana native worked for former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).

• Ogilvy Government Relations, meanwhile, is bulking up its own health care team.

The shop will announce today that it is bringing on Mike Hogan, who was deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and Steve Tilton, a former vice president for federal affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Tilton previously worked at Advanced Medical Technology Association.

• Veteran GOP lobbyist Bill Jarrell, who most recently ran his own firm Washington Strategies, has joined the Madison Group as a partner.

Jarrell worked for several government officials, including as deputy chief of staff and administrative assistant for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as chief of staff to then-Rep. James Saxton (R-N.J.). He also served in the Interior Department during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

• The Motion Picture Association of America has tapped Karen Thorland to be its vice president and senior content protection counsel. Thorland, who will begin her new job Jan. 18, most recently was a partner with Loeb & Loeb.

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