MPAA, myriad interest groups lobby on financial regulation bill

By T.W. Farnam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Motion Picture Association of America, the Envelope Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau are all trying to shape the same piece of legislation -- the financial regulation bill moving through Congress.

Much has been made of the millions spent by Wall Street banks and securities companies trying to influence the legislation, recently approved by the Senate and headed to a conference committee Thursday. Less has been made about the broad diversity of companies and organizations that have sent lobbyists to the Hill to represent their stake in the debate.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the trade group for the six big Hollywood studios, has been working to insert a provision banning a futures market for box office returns.

Two financial companies are trying to establish such futures markets, but studios are concerned that the exchanges could create negative publicity for films.

"Box office futures are not a commodity," said Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the association. "Especially if the industry is not allowed to invest in it, this just becomes a form of pure gambling."

The Envelope Manufacturers Association is concerned with regulations regarding electronic delivery of bank statements. "The envelope manufacturers are watching very closely anything that incentivizes moving away from paper statements," said John Runyan, one of the group's lobbyists.

"The bill is so broad and goes into so many segments of the economy, it was bound to touch agriculture somewhere," said Adam Nielsen of the Illinois Farm Bureau. "We're looking at the bill and hoping there aren't any negative consequences. I think that would probably be the sentiment of a lot of people."

Nielsen said the bureau had concerns about whether, under the bill, farmers would be able to manage risk using options and futures, although the measure is not one of its top priorities.

U.S. Telecom, the trade association for broadband companies, is concerned about pieces of the Senate bill that could affect prepaid phone cards and a broad definition of "financial data processing" in the measure, which could regulate Internet companies with customers who bank online.

Several large utility companies, including Southern Co. and Florida Power & Light, have registered to lobby on provisions of the bill banning derivatives sold in private or "over the counter." Those financial instruments help even non-financial companies hedge against market forces changing prices for commodities or interest rates that affect their business, and many companies are seeking an exemption for end-users that depend on them.

The publishing company Argus Media, which provides energy news and business intelligence, also listed derivatives as one of the issues on which it would lobby. A company official declined to comment. Competitor McGraw-Hill also targeted the bill.

Teradata, which produces database software, is lobbying on accountability for the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, which gave government support to financial companies during the economic crisis, as well as the financial regulation bill. A spokesman did not return a call asking for clarification on the company's interests in those issues.

Of course, the bill has attracted a lot of attention from the usual players with a big stake in the outcome. The Center for Public Integrity found that more than 3,000 lobbyists were registered to lobby on the legislation, more than five for each member of Congress. Companies lobbying on the financial regulation bill have spent $1.3 billion since the start of 2009, the center found, but that figure includes lobbying on other priorities as well.

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