Hollywood came recruiting right away. So did Washington law firms. The Obama administration put out feelers about possible assignments, though none engaged Chris Dodd’s interest after 36 years in Congress.
The law firms, he ruled out immediately. Dodd said the offers were generous, but he had no desire to be a “show pony,” an eminence grise to be trotted out to impress clients. The Hollywood studio heads persisted, but he resisted.
“I didn’t think it would work,” Dodd said.
But one by one, he met the studio chiefs, clicking with most. It took months, but Dodd said he eventually warmed to the idea, then became enthused, of running the Motion Picture Association of America.
“The issues excited me, the people I was impressed with. Thought it would be an exciting new chapter and a different path to go down,” Dodd said today. “I guess on Monday night, we reached a final agreement. I signed the papers yesterday.”
Dodd, who is barred from lobbying Congress for two years, said he intends to follow the spirit, as well as the letter, of the revolving-door law.
“This business involves so much more than that. This is a global business with offices in China, India, Europe,” he said. “There are so many issues involved.”
The lobbying prohibition does not apply to figures outside Congress. In response to a question about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to cut the film tax credit, Dodd suggested that Malloy think twice about slowing a business that generates 7,000 jobs in Connecticut, many at ESPN.
The day after signing a deal that will pay him a seven-figure salary, Dodd was back in Connecticut, resuming the sporadic farewell tour he’s been on since announcing his retirement a year ago.
He spoke to the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, an advocacy group marking its 40th anniversary, at a hotel in Cromwell. He recalled past struggles, sharing credit for some legislative wins with old colleagues, such as Lowell P. Weicker Jr.
“Lowell was terrific on this stuff,” Dodd said.
Phyllis Zlotnick, a council member he met 36 years ago as a freshman congressman, called him over as he started to leave. He took a cordless microphone with him and held it for Zlotnick.
“I think you’re wonderful,” said Zlotnick, whom Dodd says was never afraid to demand more from him and the rest of Congress on behalf of civil rights for the disabled. “I will miss you terribly.”
Dodd bent over and kissed Zlotnick, who uses a wheelchair.
Later today, he will speak at the University of Connecticut to mark the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. He’s also invited to another commemoration at the Kennedy Library in Boston.
A few weeks ago, he took his wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 9, to the village in the Dominican Republic, near the Haitan border, where he was a 21-year-old volunteer–45 years ago.
“I was so glad my daughters got a chance to be with me, to see this village that had such an impact on my life,” Dodd said.
Dodd seemed relaxed and rested. He insisted he had no regrets about not seeking re-election last year, as his poll ratings plummeted.
“It was the right decision for me to make, but it wasn’t without emotion,” Dodd said.
He spoke frequently with Vice President Joe Biden about staying in government service, though he mentioned no specific posts.
“I chatted with him about some things,” he said. “Candidly, they didn’t rise to the level where…”
He didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he smiled and said it was time for something different.
“We’ll see how this goes,” Dodd said. “Look, it’s a big leap, but I like changes and differences.”
His record suggests otherwise. He served six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, then 30 years in the Senate, longer than any previous Connecticut senator.
He will keep his Connecticut home, the converted schoolhouse in East Haddam by the Connecticut River, where he announced his retirement.
“This is home,” he said.
But his base of operations will remain in Washington, where his children attend school.
On Friday, he leaves for a speaking engagement in Shanghai, a commitment made before taking the new job. He begins work for the motion picture industry in two weeks, on St. Patrick’s Day.