The entertainment industry, led by Seagram Co., almost doubled its donations to federal campaigns from the previous election cycle as it fights Internet piracy, a campaign-spending watchdog group said.
The industry gave more than $15.5 million to political party campaign committees and candidates in the 1999-2000 presidential election cycle, compared with $8.5 million at the same point in the 1995-1996 cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics said.
Hollywood has been lobbying in Washington to seek ways to fight growing Internet piracy of movies and music, which is costing the industry millions of dollars in lost video sales.
Piracy of movies is an “attack on the economic well being of the country,” said Richard Taylor, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, a leading industry trade group.
Seagram, owner of Universal Studios, topped industry spending with almost $1.1 million, the center reported. Time Warner Inc., owner of CNN and HBO, was No. 2 with $887,345 in donations, followed by the Walt Disney Co. at $693,327. Entertainment donors favored Democrats over Republicans by almost 2 to 1.
Last week, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Eisner urged Congress to adopt a law requiring Internet companies to use technology preventing movies and other copyrighted products from illegally being duplicated over the Internet.
The Recording Industry Association of America also has been embroiled in litigation with Web sites Napster Inc. and MP3.com, which allow visitors to download music and make their own CDs from home. Seagram, which is reportedly on the verge of being acquired by French media conglomerate Vivendi, also owns numerous record labels, including MCA Records.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, who withdrew from the Republican campaign for president, received the most from the entertainment industry with $349,193. Rep. Howard Berman, a California Republican and staunch supporter of Hollywood, ranked second at $147,748. Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, collected $147,400 and ranked third.
The high-tech industry also boosted its spending in this election cycle to about $13.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Software company executives visited Capitol Hill two weeks ago urging stronger copyright laws to combat Internet piracy.
The Center for Responsive Politics evaluated Federal Election Commission data on contributions from television, movie and music companies and individuals associated with those companies.