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Bush Ally Is Hired by Record Assn.

February 28, 2001|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Recording Industry Assn. of America announced Tuesday that former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot will join its legal team, acting as outside counsel for the music industry advocacy group.

Racicot, a close friend of President Bush, had been considered a top contender for attorney general until he said late last year that he did not want the job.

The 52-year-old Racicot, a popular two-term governor barred from a third term, emerged as a national figure during the vote recount turmoil in Florida as a frequent and vocal Bush advocate.

He was contacted by the RIAA just days after reporting for work at the Washington offices of Bracewell & Patterson, a Houston-based law firm.

"They called me and asked me to take a look at all the intellectual-property issues that have surfaced," Racicot said in an interview. "The property issues are actually very conservative, and I don't think these are necessarily partisan issues. They have to do with a body of law that is 200 years old that protects our property rights."

The soft-spoken Racicot said he was intrigued by the legal issues surrounding the recording industry.

"I think the challenge we have now is that the technology has gotten ahead of our moral equilibrium and our concept of what's right and wrong," Racicot said of the myriad issues facing creative industries in an age of digital piracy and music-swapping over the Internet.

"Gov. Racicot's communications skills are truly impressive," RIAA President Hilary Rosen said. "In addition to bringing legal and public-policy expertise to the organization, Racicot will significantly enhance the RIAA's campaign to educate political, business and opinion leaders about the complex challenges and opportunities the music industry is facing in the digital marketplace."

With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, Racicot could help the recording industry gain the ear of Republican lawmakers. After his effective role as a partisan point man during the Florida recount, there was much speculation that he would be named attorney general--or possibly interior secretary--before he withdrew from consideration. He said at the time that with three of his five children still in college, he wanted to focus on life at home in Montana.

At the RIAA, Racicot joins a payroll that already includes Bob Dole, the longtime senator from Kansas and unsuccessful 1996 Republican presidential candidate.

Racicot (pronounced ROS-ko), a former prosecutor, has been a Bush confidant since they got to know each other at a national governors' meeting five years ago, when Bush was governor of Texas.

The RIAA has fought against copyright infringement on the Internet and taken a lead role in the battle against Napster, the online service that lets users download songs at no cost. But it also has faced criticism in Congress over content issues.

Some Senate aides say that of the four entertainment sectors--film, television, video games and music--attacked by the Federal Trade Commission last year for marketing violent content to children, the recording industry has done the least to respond.

Racicot believes that content issues are largely separate from intellectual-property issues.

"Frankly, I don't find every sculpture appealing, nor every work of art attractive," said the man whose last album purchase was recorded by the country rock band Diamond Rio. "I know that there are some recordings that I certainly wouldn't approve of or buy, but those are decisions made by each American. I don't think you can legislate taste; hopefully, that can come from a collective morality that we all choose."

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