Former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman was named yesterday to succeed Jack Valenti as president of the Motion Picture Association of America.
"It's a great honor to succeed, never replace, Jack Valenti," Glickman said yesterday. He referred to Valenti, the dean of Washington's lobbyists, as "a legend."
Glickman acknowledged that he faces two huge challenges. His first, he said, is to find a way to reduce the growing piracy of movies in the United States and around the world. His second is to take a job that has been held for nearly four decades by one of Washington's biggest personalities.
Glickman, 59, will take over the trade group, which represents the nation's seven largest movie studios, on Sept. 1, when Valenti steps down. Valenti, 82, is one of nation's most highly compensated lobbyists and has run the association since he left the White House of President Lyndon Johnson, his mentor, in 1966.
Valenti said that Glickman's salary, like his own, "is in that alluring range of seven figures." Glickman confirmed that it is a "very comfortable wage."
The movie industry's challenges will force Glickman to work hard for that money. He said the group's "number one issue" is to stop the theft-by-copying of movies, especially in foreign countries such as China, and their dissemination on the Internet. Several pieces of legislation dealing with protecting movies are pending in Congress, and the question of how to enforce copyright laws is a constant topic of negotiation in many countries and within the technology world.
Glickman declined to be specific about how he might deal with the problem. "I'm going to have a steep learning curve," he said. But he noted that the fight would have to be "multifaceted" and include education of young people about the law, strict enforcement of statutes and aggressive litigation against violators.
Glickman's route to the job started from one of the country's most rural states, Kansas, which he represented in Congress for 18 years. He was President Bill Clinton's secretary of agriculture for six years. Since 2002 he has been director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and since 2001 he has worked as a lobbyist at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, one of the District's largest lobbying law firms.
Valenti said that after a months-long search, the seven studios unanimously chose Glickman from a field of 25 candidates and offered him the job on June 25. Two reasons stood out for the choice, he said: Glickman's international experience while he was a Cabinet officer and his familiarity with Congress, especially his membership on the House Judiciary Committee, which handles copyright matters.
Although he is a Democrat, Glickman promised to work closely with Republicans as well as members of his own party. "You'd be a fool to think this job is partisan," Glickman said. Valenti noted that the association's board picked Glickman partly because he has "a wealth of friends on both sides of the aisle."
In fact, Glickman hasn't always been complimentary of congressional leaders. In a March 22 letter to the editor in The Washington Post, Glickman wrote, "Congress was created to be a check on the unlimited use of executive power. But in recent years, it has become a more passive force in U.S. politics and international affairs."
Glickman also has a personal connection to the movie business. His son Jonathan is a producer and president of Spyglass Entertainment Group Inc., a self-financed production company based at Walt Disney Studios. The younger Glickman has produced such movies as "Inspector Gadget," "Rush Hour" and its sequel, "Rush Hour II."
Glickman was far from the first person to be courted to succeed Valenti. The voluble lobbyist has been rumored to be on the verge of retirement for years. Most recently, two lawmakers from Louisiana, Sen. John Breaux (D) and Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R), were approached about taking Valenti's job. Both, however, declined. A runner-up for the job was reported to have been Victoria Clarke, the former spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Valenti will remain connected to the movie business even after he retires. He said he will continue to oversee the parental guidance rating system for movies that he helped devise in the late 1960s as a way to fend off government regulation. In typically theatrical fashion, he also teased reporters that he had a few other ventures "on my plate" but wouldn't elaborate. Although the announcement was supposed to be about Glickman, there were two press releases: Glickman's ran a page and a half; Valenti's handout was six pages long.
At the start of a press conference yesterday at the Hay-Adams Hotel, which is down the street from MPAA's headquarters, Valenti joked that the reporters there must be wondering, "When is that old son of a bitch going to leave?" And then he answered his own question: "I'm formally resigning."
"It's been a long ride and a great ride," Valenti continued. But, he added, "this great adventure now comes to an end."
Staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.