WASHINGTON — President Bush said Thursday he would nominate James E. Rogan--former Glendale congressman and a lead prosecutor in President Clinton's impeachment trial--as an undersecretary of commerce, a position that holds considerable sway over issues close to Hollywood's heart.
If confirmed by the Senate, the two-term Republican would become undersecretary of Commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Trademark Office, overseeing the protection of American-made films and other creative works.
"He is an able fellow, a superior intellect and very, very helpful with all that has to do with the protection of copyright and the sustenance of intellectual property," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, who supported the impending nomination.
In a bit of political irony, Rogan would be allied with some of the very Hollywood moguls who helped raise millions to defeat him last year in a hard-fought race against Democrat Adam B. Schiff.
While he was considered a defender of Hollywood's corporate interests, his high-profile role in the impeachment trial angered some in the industry and in his increasingly Democratic district--factors that contributed to Rogan's defeat.
But Valenti said past splits with the Hollywood community would matter little should Rogan take over as steward of copyright protection--a matter of great importance to the industry because digital technology and the Internet have made widespread piracy an increasing threat.
"This is something the industry ought to be vitally interested in on behalf of writers, directors, actors and studios, because the protection of copyright is absolutely indispensable to our future," Valenti said.
Since the election, Rogan has worked as a partner with the Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti law firm in Washington while anticipating an appointment from the Bush administration.
The White House did not say when the nomination would be officially handed down. Some Democrats have privately indicated they would not stand in Rogan's way. Indeed, sources close to the nomination said Democrats helped move it forward.
"Congressman Rogan is very honored and looking forward to working on an issue he has a long history of involvement in--an area where there has always been strong bipartisan support in protection of America's intellectual property," said Jason Roe, Rogan's political director.
Before being elected to Congress in 1996, Rogan, 43, served in the California Assembly from 1990 to 1994. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he earned a law degree from UCLA.