News

Florida Congressman Wants Law to Make Business Mind Its Own

1/30/2010 2:00 AM Eastern

Cable and broadcast ad reps shouldn't start counting that extra campaign cash just yet. One Democratic congressman from Florida apparently thinks he knows how to put a stopper on all the corporate and union money that could flow to cable and broadcasting outlets thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing corporate and union pension funds to directly fund campaign and candidate ads.

Rep. Alan Grayson took a break from his health-care campaign — he has a running tally on his Web site of people who have died because they didn't have health insurance — to introduce a bunch of campaign-funding bills with titles that suggest they are about making a point, rather than making law.

Consider, for example, the “End the Hijacking of Shareholder Funds Act” (HR 4487), which would require a majority shareholder vote for any corporate expenditure “to influence public opinion” other than, say, to convince people your widgets are the best (and that would come under the heading of promotion rather than political influence).

The “End Political Kickbacks Act” (HR 4434) would prevent for-profit companies that take government money (hmm, that would be all government contractors and all those stimulus fund bidders) from making any political contributions.

The Wire's favorite title is the “Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act” (HR 4431), which would levy a 500% tax on corporate money spent on political advocacy campaigns. Presumably, paying a $5,000 tax on a $1,000 commercial would discourage corporate political speech.

There are more, but you get the idea. There are also plenty of more-serious efforts to address the ruling, including the president's pledge to make legislation a priority and an online petition for a constitutional amendment.

Grayson's press secretary, Todd Jurkowitz, told The Wire there's no joke here. “These are not to make a point,” Jurkowitz said. “The congressman wants these bills passed, and when people find out about them, they will want them to become law as well.”

House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has signed on as a co-sponsor, Jurkowitz said.

Benya's Career As Cable 'Agent' Saluted at TWC

Senior vice president of video product strategy Bob Benya had a sendoff from Time Warner Cable last Wednesday more suited to a matinee idol or action hero — or both. Like, say, if James Bond were leaving the British Secret Service after 28 years to enter some related field in civilian life.

That's not The Wire's idea: Benya's TWC colleagues James Kasanin, Andrew Brown and Kristin Malaspina thought of it. They put together a video tribute to Benya shown at a reception for the Emmy Award-winning executive, who is joining pay-per-view service InDemand as its CEO. The reception, at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, was hosted by TWC executive vice president and chief strategy officer Peter Stern.

After a warm toast to Benya by Stern, Kasanin explained that the video imagined Benya's career as the he might tell it, should a stranger ask him.

Basically it showed “Agent 007 Benya” taking on such impossible assignments as rescuing the Internet with Road Runner (he was its first marketing chief); keeping the Full Service Network in Orlando, Fla., a secret (that didn't work out as planned); introducing digital TV; rolling out video on demand and birthing the Start Over and Look Back services that grew out of Mystro TV, the first planned network-based DVR. Benya developed Mystro TV (tagline: “TV that loves you back”) as a consumer brand.

Clips of Sean Connery filled in for Bob, and scenes of explosions substituted for market and technical trials. Roger Moore skiing in the Alps was an avatar for Benya's sojourn with a cable operator in Scandinavia.

The man of the hour gave warm thanks back to Stern and cited mentors such as former TWC of New York City marketing VP Dick Clark, who recruited him into marketing from a clerical job in operations.

“When I started out in cable, we literally did everything together,” Benya said — dinners, ballgames, shore weekends. Such closeness was epitomized by meeting his wife, Barbara Kelly, “my best friend, my soulmate,” on the job at the New York City system, where she is regional VP, programming and new business development.

TWC owns a stake in In Demand, so Benya isn't severing ties.

“You're going to hear a lot from us,” he said of the programming provider. “I'm not going away.”

Brava, Ellen Stone, For Locks Donation In Sundance Salon

At the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Bravo set up a Shear Genius Salon on Main Street, named for the hair-centric competition series sponsored by Nexxus Salon Hair Care.

Celebrity stylistJonathan Antin and Nexxus creative director Kevin Mancuso worked their magic on VIPs' coifs at the salon, which was open Jan. 22-24.

Bravo partnered with Locks of Love, the non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss, at the salon. Among those contributing to the worthy cause was Ellen Stone, senior vice president of marketing at Bravo. She's shown here in a Bravo photo, being styled by Mancuso in the salon after her donation.

Shear Genius returns to Bravo's airwaves Feb. 3 at 10 p.m.