Published January 19, 2012
Hollywood's top lobbyist and former Sen. Chris Dodd is threatening to cut off campaign funds to President Obama's re-election effort because of anger over the White House appearing to side with tech companies in a bitter fight over anti-piracy legislation.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Dodd fired off a warning to Obama -- his former Senate Democratic colleague in this election year -- "don't take us for granted."
"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," Dodd told Fox News. "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."
Dodd, who became CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America after leaving the Senate in 2011, noted the movie "Avatar" was stolen by online pirates 21 million times. Such acts, he said, threaten to decimate his industry.
"You can complain and say, well, actors make a lot of money and they don't have to worry about this," said Dodd. "You tell that to that camera guy, you tell that to that makeup artist, you tell that to that truck driver out there who made, makes a living because they work in this industry."
"Avatar" was made by 20th Century Fox which, like Fox News Channel, is owned by NewsCorp. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of NewsCorp, has also been outspoken in promoting two pieces of anti-piracy legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, known respectively as "SOPA" and "PIPA," to protect copyrighted material.
Tech companies like Google charge that such a crackdown would result in censorship. Dodd said he was caught off-guard when the White House released a written statement last Saturday sharing some of the tech community's concerns about the legislation.
"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," said Dodd. "These issues before us -- this is the only issue that goes right to the heart of this industry."
Vice President Biden, in Reno, Nev. on Thursday, said that he met with tech officials Wednesday night and was meeting Thursday evening with Hollywood studio chiefs to try and broker a legislation deal.
A White House official later told Fox News the vice president isn't brokering a deal, suggesting Biden misspoke.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney earlier this week stressed the administration did not take sides last Saturday and is simply trying to find the right balance to come up with reform that both sides can live with.
"Our firm belief is that we need to do something about online piracy by foreign websites, but we need to do it in a way that does not impinge upon a free and open Internet," Carney said.
Meanwhile, it's unclear if Dodd will follow through on the threats --- or whether it will matter. Hollywood has so far ponied up over $4.1 million to the Obama re-election campaign. That's already higher than the $3.7 million it gave him in the 2008 campaign, according to Opensecrets.org. Several months remain for more money to flow.
In addition, any lost Hollywood support could be made up with votes and dollars from the tech community, which is lobbying the issue just as aggressively.
Fox News has learned from Democratic sources that several tech company officials attended a fundraiser for the president in Washington last Friday, one day before the White House publicly expressed its concerns about the proposed legislation that angered Hollywood so much.
While the fundraising event itself was on the president's public schedule, details of who attended were not released by the White House last Friday. Fox News on Thursday asked the Obama campaign to release the names of attendees but so far that has not been done.
An Obama campaign official did confirm "the event included both supporters who work for technology companies and those who do not."
The campaign official said there was no connection between Friday's fundraiser and Saturday's announcement on the legislation, and noted the president does not take money from federal lobbyists so none was in attendance at the fundraiser. Other company officials for some of the tech companies, however, were there.
The president's re-election team also notes it has a broad base of financial support, and does not seem to be sweating any potential cutoff of more money than it's already received from Hollywood.
"This campaign is fueled by donations from more than 1.3 million Americans who come from different backgrounds and might disagree on some issues but contribute to the campaign because they believe in the president's vision to restore economic security for the middle class and to build an economy that rewards hard work and responsibility," said the Obama campaign official.