Friday, February 21, 2014

Hollywood Heist

 Subsidies to the Entertainment Industry Continue to Fleece Taxpayers

We all now how well the movie moguls, directors and their over paid actors live. The likes of Julia Roberts, Brat Pitt, George Clooney regularly make 20 Million per picture. Money flows like water and no expense is spared. Movie tickets continue to rise, but you may be helping pay these millions to the great pretenders, even if you don't see their work. 

Consider this:
In Louisiana, which offers some of the most lucrative tax giveaways to Hollywood, the Legislative Auditor’s Office reported that the subsidies cost the state $170 million in lost tax revenue in a single year. By one estimate, the state is handing $70,000 per episode to the cast of Duck Dynasty – all while pleading poverty to justify deep cuts to public health care programs and to retirement benefits for police officers, firefighters and teachers.

Last week, 59 California state legislators sponsoring a bill to increase tax credits to the film and television industry. Call it yet another Hollywood heist, this one engineered with a double-shot of chutzpah.

Consider the context of this latest proposal. For one thing it is being championed by state lawmakers even though one of their own is right now embroiled in an FBI corruption investigation surrounding – you guessed it! – tax subsidies for the entertainment industry. According to court documents, that probe involved law enforcement officials posing as film executives, allegedly bribing a powerful California state senator to expand tax subsidies for their movie project.

The case generated big headlines only weeks after a joint New York Daily News/PIRG investigation uncovered a legalized bribery scandal on the opposite coast. There in New York, the newspaper reported that the “film and television industry has lavished Albany pols with more than $900,000 in campaign donations…while were pushing to expand a production tax credit program” for the industry. And that scandal was preceded by other film-subsidy-related corruption scandals in Iowa, Massachusetts and Louisiana.

Individual examples among the 45 states that offer film subsidies tell that larger story.