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K Street Files: Netflix Hires 'at Large' Lobbyist; Thorn Run Expands
By Matthew Murray
Roll Call Staff
January 10, 2011

Netflix envelopes await delivery in a San Francisco mail bin last year. The DVD-by-mail company is changing its business model to more online transmissions and has brought on its first in-house lobbyist to navigate Washington, D.C.

Netflix, whose ubiquitous red DVD envelopes are quickly giving way to direct online transmission, has officially brought on its first in-house registered lobbyist, Republican Michael Drobac.

Since 2005, the Los Gatos, Calif., company has used outside help to press its legislative agenda, retaining Patton Boggs and Monument Policy Group, Senate records show.

In an interview Thursday, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey declined to elaborate much on the hire. "We've had a presence, but we're a little more visible now," he said.

While Drobac will be a full-time employee, Swasey said Netflix is not joining its tech-sector brethren in opening a swanky Washington, D.C., office. Swasey said Drobac, who did not respond to a request for comment, will be "at large."

"I don't know where he works," Swasey said.

According to Secretary of the Senate records, Drobac in 2010 represented the online travel agency and the Online Publishers Association. He's also a one-time GOP staffer to Senate Commerce ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), as well as to then-Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.), who now runs the National Association of Broadcasters.

A tech industry source said Netflix's new hire comes as no surprise. As the entertainment distributor migrates its business away from the U.S. Postal Service toward television set-top boxes like Apple TV, it will draw the eye of the Federal Communications Commission and other content providers.

"They're in a different industry now; they're in the business of streaming movies over the Internet and everything's changed," the source said. "There are companies that are competing, and there are a lot bigger and more visible issues. ... There's great opportunity for more government interaction."

K Street Moves

Thorn Run Partners has hired Sara van Geertruyden to be part of the lobbying firm that was launched last year by Ogilvy Government Relations veterans, Democrat Andy Rosenberg and Republican Chris Lamond.

A health policy expert, van Geertruyden had previously worked at Patton Boggs, which she joined in 2003. At Patton Boggs she represented a number of health care clients, including hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies and health provider associations. Prior to that the Louisiana native worked for former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).