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U.S. POLITICS

Trump DOJ Killing Cronyism… Democrats MIA

Why should the burden of tempering Hollywood’s anti-free market antics fall squarely on the shoulders of Republicans in the legislative and executive branches?

Why should the burden of tempering Hollywood’s anti-free market antics fall squarely on the shoulders of Republicans in the legislative and executive branches?

Democrats are quick to call out unsubstantiated allegations of cronyism when it comes to members of the Trump administration, but it appears that when one is a poster boy for their causes they either look the other way or assist them in their anti-competitive efforts.

Spielberg climbed to the top of the Hollywood ladder and now wants to prevent up-and-comers from doing the same.

To understand the scope of the problem, look no further than Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg, who, according to reports, wanted to impose protectionism for the Old Guard with a plan that would have crippled the providers of 21st-century mediums of viewing, like Netflix.

A member of the board of governors for the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Spielberg seemingly resented the fact that independent films like Roma won Oscars, including for Best Director, this year. The success of his competitors bothered him so much that he reportedly suggested imposing a minimum time limit films had to appear in theaters to qualify for awards.

Translation: Spielberg climbed to the top of the Hollywood ladder and now wants to prevent up-and-comers from doing the same.

Steven Spielberg

Thankfully, the Trump administration responded with lightning speed. Makan Delrahim, the Antitrust Division czar under William Barr’s Department of Justice, sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences warning the institution that if “the Academy – an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership – establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without pro-competitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”

While the Trump White House’s action was enough to stop Spielberg’s anti-competitive idea from receiving a formal place in AMPAS’ rule-making last week, why didn’t anyone on the left call it out, and why does the left go out of its way to assist the Hollywood elite in its quests to circumvent the competitive marketplace?

Repudiating cronyism should have no political boundaries but Democrats seem incapable of doing so when the culprit is a fellow team member. Spielberg, who through his Amblin Television is working on a high-brow project with Hillary Clinton and who received a visit from Joe Biden for a $5,000 campaign check, is certainly no exception to this rule.

Democrats do not just look the other way at Hollywood cronyism; they help fuel it.

Democrats do not just look the other way at Hollywood cronyism; they help fuel it.

As CNBC noted, this has been seen with everything from New York mayor Bill de Blasio endorsing the city’s subsidies for big studio productions to Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti proposing doubling their government incentives in the city, despite both of them initially promising to end big business tax breaks.

While the left continues to advance special favors for the entertainment industry, the Trump Justice Department – through its work against Spielberg and others – continues to make marketable progress in stopping its cronyism, and there are still a number of outstanding fights that it can and should win.  

For example, Barr’s DOJ is reviewing the antitrust settlement agreements, known as consent decrees, that have for over 70 years stopped two of the entertainment industry’s biggest, most powerful monopolies – the American Society of Composers and Songwriters (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) – from turning the industry’s free marketplace into a Hollywood wasteland.

Like Spielberg’s AMPAS in the movie industry, ASCAP and BMI are institutions composed of competitors – in this case, music publishers – that work in concert to advance their own financial interests. This unholy alliance between the rivals has locked approximately 90 percent of music’s performing rights marketplace under ASCAP and BMI’s control, potentially opening the door for price-gouging.

For years, the consent decrees as implemented by the DOJ have blocked the vast majority of ASCAP and BMI’s anticompetitive behavior by mandating the issuance of music licenses at fair market rates – protecting small business by restoring free market forces to the otherwise anti-competitive industry.  

Democrats need to wake up and remain consistent with their principles

While ASCAP and BMI are begging for more favors, the music monopolies are just as predatory as Spielberg and the rest of Big Hollywood and must remain under close watch. Thanks to the investigative work of Republicans such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), William Barr and the rest of the Trump DOJ should have no problem realizing this reality. Would this be the case if a modern-day Democrat was currently stationed on Pennsylvania Avenue? The answer appears to be no.

While the Trump administration and its Republican allies in the Senate certainly deserve applause for their efforts in combating the cartels of Hollywood, this should not be a battle fought alone. And that’s what it has been for quite some time.

Democrats need to wake up and remain consistent with their principles, even when they conflict with the interests of their most significant campaign contributors. Until then, the anti-free market tactics of Hollywood will never fully be squelched.

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Written By

Michael J. Pappas is a former Republican member of Congress from New Jersey.

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