Stan McCoy is the assistant US Trade Representative who oversaw the creation of the disastrous, far-reaching copyright provisions in ACTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership. He's left the Obama administration for a high-paid job at the MPAA, which represents companies that stood to reap massive profits and permanent control over Internet governance and innovation thanks to his efforts while in government. Now, the Obama administration has headhunted a software industry lobbyist (who supported SOPA) to take over his job. McCoy is one of more than a dozen USTR officials who've left the government to work for copyright lobbying bodies, including former Obama copyright czar Victoria Espinel, who now gets her paycheck from the Business Software Alliance.
Timothy Lee has an excellent piece on the revolving-door relationship between the USTR and the entertainment industry and other copyright lobbyists. When Obama was campaigning for office, he vowed that "lobbyists won't work in my White House."
But the revolving door between USTR and industry groups creates a strong but subtle pressure on USTR's culture. Like many government agencies, USTR regularly turns to outside experts to help it sort through complex trade issues. Naturally, they turn to people they trust: their former colleagues — or even former bosses — who now work at trade organizations with plenty of resources to devote to understanding the minutia of trade policy.
And of course, as Holleyman's hire illustrates, the revolving door can carry people in either direction. A USTR staffer's former colleague who works at an industry trade group this year might be her boss next year. So over time, the culture and values of industry groups like the MPAA, BSA, and RIAA seeps into USTR. USTR staffers who cater to the interests of these industries are seen as team players and get promoted. Those who push for a more balanced approach are seen as trouble-makers and get marginalized.
The revolving door was hardly invented by the Obama administration. USTR has been swapping staffers with industry groups for decades. But the decision to hire Holleyman just as McCoy becomes a lobbyist for Hollywood presents an interesting contrast with Obama's first presidential campaign, when he vowed that lobbyists "won't work in my White House."
How the revolving door lets Hollywood shape Obama's trade agenda [Timothy B Lee/Vox]
(Image: Revolving doors, Valerie Everett, CC-BY-SA)