July 19, 2012

Batman As Bribery? Senator Leahy’s Movie Cameo Is A Conflict Of Interest

Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Judiciary Committee, has made cameos in multiple Batman movies, including the one premiering this month.

Corruption comes in many forms. Sometimes special interests attempt to buy influence through disclosed campaign donations, but too often, influence is purchased through unorthodox giveaways to our politicians, from discounted mortgages, to free yachts, and promises of future jobs.

And in some cases, special interests gain a foothold by exploiting a lawmaker’s childhood fantasies.

Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) is chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which has wide sway over intellectual property law. This Friday, Leahy, a “lifelong fan” of the Batman comic book series, will make his second cameo in a Batman movie when “The Dark Knight Rises” opens in theaters.

As Demand Progress notes, Leahy’s appearance is a clear conflict of interest, given the movie industry’s intense lobbying for stricter intellectual property laws covering their products. Leahy, who has received over $900,000 in campaign contributions from the movie and music industry, attended a special screening of the movie last Sunday.

He was the guest of Warner Brothers Studio CEO Barry Meyer — the same Meyer whose company and its association (called the MPAA) has spent millions lobbying Leahy’s committee. In 2010, Meyer testified in front of Leahy on intellectual property legislation. His company is particularly interested in dual legislation known as SOPA/PIPA, which has attracted widespread criticism for its potential to give new powers to industry and government to broadly censor the Internet.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Leahy has been one of the movie industry’s most loyal proponents on Capitol Hill. In December, he boldly promised to lead a coalition to pass SOPA/PIPA — an effort that failed only because of one of the largest Internet grassroots organizing efforts in history.

We don’t begrudge Members of Congress having fun. But Leahy was not cast in the film because he’s big at the box office, or because there were no struggling actors who could have played the role better. (He’s not, and there are.)  Leahy was cast because Hollywood hopes that making him feel special will lead to more special favors in Washington.

Demand Progress, an advocacy group bringing attention to this issue, launched a petition yesterday evening called “Holy Conflict of Interest!”:

Hollywood is waging an ongoing war against the Internet by pushing bills like SOPA and encouraging the Department of Justice to shut down websites — and even imprison people — just for aggregating links to sites that the movie industry doesn’t like.

Hollywood spends millions of dollars trying to buy off politicians. They’ve even repeatedly let Senator Patrick Leahy — the sponsor of the Senate version of SOPA (called PIPA) and the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over most bills that Hollywood cares about — appear in their summer blockbusters. He’s in the Dark Knight Rises, and was also in the last Batman movie.

Tell congress members that we need them to stand up for Internet freedom — rather than inflate their egos by shilling for Hollywood and other corporate interests that want to censor the net.

  • CatKinNY

    I was going to make some snide comment like “Wait till Rush Limbaugh get’s a hold of this!” but have just heard about a mass shooting in Aurora, CO, 20 miles from Columbine, at a midnight premier of the new Batman movie. 14 people are dead, and 50 are hospitalized, many in critical condition. Will this country ever get out from under the thumb of the NRA and institute some sane gun control laws? Nearly 50,000 dead in Mexico, the majority murdered by guns bought in stores near our border in ‘straw purchases’. While this has been a boon to domestic firearms and ammunition makers, is there any point at which the American public says enough? Congress won’t do it unless we push them; the miraculous escape from death of Gaby Giffords at the hands of a lunatic told them nothing.

    • The NRA has NOTHING to do with the Aurora shooting, so making the huge jump in attempts to connect the two, automatically disqualifies anything you type as nothing more than “typical emotional, knee-jerk”. The 2nd amendment is the right to bear arms against a tyrannical federal government…..its NOT for hunting or marksmanship. Molon Lobe.

      • CatKinNY

        You are a member of a tiny minority who places their desire to own every lethal thing produced by the arms industry above all else, and the majority will eventually win this argument. You know nothing about American history, and I’m tired of trying to educate the willfully ignorant. When the laws change, you’ll comply unless you’re militantly crazy, at which point the government will have to take you out, and most of your fellow Americans will secretly cheer.

        • You make my point, you are the very definition of “sheeple”, please feel free to post any empirical data supporting your ad hominem. I’d highly suggest you actually read the constitution and save the remedial remarks.

          • CatKinNY

            There is no empirical data to ‘refute’ tin foil hat craziness. My family has been here since 1630; I’m a veteran, and the descendant of veterans of every conflict this nation has seen going back to King Philip’s War. I have six DAR pins for actual soldiers, and four for merchants. I’m quite familiar with the Constitution, being a descendant of John Hancock. You are a perfect example of the ‘sheeple’ for the arms industry, who have sold you a bill of goods based on made up history to get you to protect their ability to sell weapons and ammo to people who shouldn’t have any access to either. You bought a fucking ad campaign cooked up by Burston Marstellar In short, you’re a tool, and a non sharp one at that. Please, force the government to take you out before you reproduce. It’s the only act of patriotism you’ll ever commit.

          • You’re a typical progressive liberal projecting hate, ignorance and painfully obvious paranoia.

          • CatKinNY

            That is truly hilarious coming from someone who inhabits a world that is nothing but a paranoid hallucination.

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