Do the campaign contributions from Big Media to various pro-Big Media congressional representatives amount to quid pro quo? Without direct proof (such as a tape recording of a lobbyist saying, "Here's a bunch of money, now support my legislation"), it can't often be proven definitively.
But from the public record, we can make assumptions.
Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, who represented Hollywood until he lost his seat last month, was one of Big Media's best friends. For example, he championed the failed effort to pass the terrible Stop Online Piracy Act, which almost nobody but the media industry thought was a good approach to fighting illicit downloads of movies and music.
How close was Berman to the companies that sponsored his campaigns?
Well, just have a look at this embarrassing mash note written for Politico by Matt Gerson, a lobbyist who once worked for the Motion Picture Association of America and now works for Universal Music Group.
Headlined "Congress is losing a star," the op-ed is about as cringe-inducing as can be. It opens with a description of how accessible and compliant Berman was when it came to the needs of the MPAA. Gerson then includes some aw-shucks memories to show what a regular guy Berman is and how, despite representing Hollywood, he "never went Hollywood": for example, he once wasn't sure whether a reference to the singer Jewel was aimed at one of the guys from ZZ Top.
Oh, that Howard! What a character.
According to Gerson, Berman was a pure genius when it came to the bewildering details of copyright law. Gerson doesn't explicitly mention how Berman engineered those details to the media industry's benefit. Instead, he's painted as a really smart guy, and a truth-seeker who's just trying to do the right thing.
And also, he would have made a great Founding Father. Gerson writes:
But when you hear people talk about Howard's decency, his mastery of substance and nuance, his ability to distill complex issues, his willingness to listen to all sides, the creativity that enables him to craft workable compromises, all punctuated by courtesy, respect and good humor, it's easy to conclude that he would have been a welcome addition to that gathering in Philadelphia, too -- just as he has been to the institution he has served so well for the past 30 years.
How a person can bring himself to write such a thing about anybody is a mystery. How someone can write such a thing about one of Congress's most promiscuous harlots is impossible to fathom, even if the writer is one of that harlot's most loyal clients.