Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.
Just last month the star power of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was the driving force in getting the Entertainment Software Rating Board to re-rate GTA: San Andreas as "adults only" following the infamous Hot Coffee revelations. Clinton called for an FTC investigation, and vowed to introduce legislation aimed at preventing the sale of violent and sexually explicit games to minors.
Now, as ace game journalist and Kotaku editor Brian Crecente reports in the Rocky Mountain News, two powerful game industry figures are hosting a $1,000- a-plate fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton on Sept. 14 at Washington D.C.'s Phoenix Park Hotel.
Entertainment Software Association President Doug Lowenstein and Steve Schnur, worldwide executive of music for game publishing giant Electronic Arts, are co-hosting the breakfast event. An ESA spokesman told Crecente that he was unable to comment on Lowenstein's "private schedule."
In July, Lowenstein reacted sharply to Hillary's criticisms, rejecting her call for legislation and blaming parents for providing mature-themed games to their children.
"The legislation proposed by Senator Clinton is unconstitutional on its face," Lowenstein said. "...we hope that after further reflection and dialogue, Senator Clinton will abandon the bill and work cooperatively with industry...We reject any suggestion that parents cannot trust ESRB ratings...You can introduce all the bills in the world but none of them will ensure that parents exercise the necessary control over the games they buy for their kids."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Can't seem to find my ESA-speak to English dictionary, but apparently "further reflection and dialogue" is spelled m-o-n-e-y.
The Rocky Mountain News story quotes Steven Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics as saying the breakfast fundraiser has the earmarks of "an industry trying to curry favor with one of its critics...It's hard to separate an individual donor from a high level position they hold in an influential industry group...Whether the organization likes it or not, this fundraiser is going to be seen as an industry-backed fundraiser."
EDITORIAL OPINION: This is a stunning lapse of both ethics and judgement for Senator Clinton. Whether or not one agrees with her previously-stated positions on video game content issues, this is a clear conflict of interest, one in which she is complicit even while her game-related agenda is still in its embryonic stage. The ill-advised fundraiser tarnishes Hillary's carefully-honed image, making her appear like just another Washington pol chasing campaign money, never mind the source.
Nor does it show the ESA or the video game industry in a positive light. By all means, fight the good fight, Doug. You've done pretty well on constitutional grounds up until now. But this... The ESA can claim all it wants that the $1,000-a-plate breakfast is a private matter for Doug Lowenstein. That's a transparent falsehood. Doug Lowenstein knows it. Gamers know it, and everyone in Washington knows it.