After the Motion Picture Association of America slapped Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 911 with an "R" rating late last week, and it became clear that the MPAA would not budge, Moore and his distributors hired one man they think can change the MPAA's mind: former New York governor Mario Cuomo.
According to an MPAA staffer in Washington, Cuomo is being paid a five figure fee to make appeals all the way to the top of MPAA. That would mean former Lyndon Johnson staffer Jack Valenti.
On Wednesday, on the "Today" show, Moore revealed that the scenes of abuse that appear in his film had been in his possession last year but that he told no one about the abuse, out of fear that "mainstream media" would not use his evidence properly. Moore apparently also didn't share any of his footage with Democrats on Capitol Hill or with influential friends in Hollywood and New York. It is the footage of abuse in part that is responsible for the "R" rating, which insures that anyone under the age of 16 cannot get into the theater without being accompanied by an adult. An "R" rating will mean not only less exposure -- but a smaller gate.
"We were surprised when we heard that Cuomo was going to bat for this thing," says the MPAA staffer. "We usually don't have someone of this stature lobbying on behalf of a movie, especially one this controversial."
In between meetings with his union overlords and other supporters, presumptive so and so John Kerry has been spending time in Washington going over the vetting reports on several of his advisers' nominees for vice president. According to a Kerry campaign staffer, Kerry met late Wednesday with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who was in Washington for a press conference at the National Press Club and meetings with fellow Democratic governors. Other campaign sources contacted Wednesday evening could not confirm the meeting, but said it appeared Kerry had been keeping his schedule open for private meetings on Wednesday, Thursday, and possibly Friday.
Gen. Wesley Clark was believed to be in Washington late Wednesday and possibly Thursday, while Sen. John Edwards was to be in New York and Washington for fundraising events on those days. Both men have been vetted, but neither is thought to have met extensively with Kerry one on one.
"We hear that Kerry and Edwards talk on occasion," says a Kerry campaign staffer. "But we don't hear very much beyond that. Kerry has former Edwards people here, and at the least they seem to be hearing things."
The buzz on Edwards, at least in Washington, has been noticeably higher in the last two weeks, although that appears to be more the result of his own supporters' efforts on his behalf and less a clear indication that Kerry is any closer to making a final decision.
For several days it had appeared that Kerry had moved away from Rep. Dick Gephardt as a veep choice. That illusion was shattered Wednesday when the two were spotted meeting in Kerry's small private office space on Capitol Hill for almost two hours.
"You hear all the union guys saying it's a slam dunk, but the people who worked for him and who are now in the field working for Kerry don't seem hopeful," says the Kerry staffer.
Edwards, though, continues to act like a man campaigning for the bottom of the ticket. In New York on Wednesday, at a fundraiser held by a liberal think tank called the Drum Major Institute, Edwards was glad-handing and acting very much like a man running for re-election. Given that he's not running for the Senate again, he must be running for something else.
(This item was updated at 10:23 a.m on 6/17/04)
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