June 17, 2019

Mnuchin’s Hollywood Ties Raise Ethical Questions in China Talks

Mnuchin’s Hollywood Ties Raise Ethical Questions in China Talks

This month, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Mr. Mnuchin’s most recent financial disclosure, which Treasury approved last June, has yet to be certified by the ethics office. That has raised questions about the reason for the delay.

Ethics experts have pointed to Mr. Mnuchin’s continuing ties to StormChaser Partners as a potential reason for the holdup.

“It certainly creates a significant appearance issue,” said Virginia Canter, a former senior ethics counsel at the Treasury Department. “Not just because he previously was in the entertainment business, and may in fact go back into it at some point when he leaves Treasury, but because his spouse appears to have holdings in these films and is part of the film industry and may benefit if favorable terms are negotiated with China.”

According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter this year, Ms. Linton spends much of her time in Los Angeles, where she has been writing, directing and producing a comedy called “Me, You, Madness.” She has also been busy reshooting “Serial Daters Anonymous,” a 2014 satire that was never released in which she had a starring role. She told the magazine that financing for her films comes from “a variety of investors.”

While Mr. Mnuchin’s role in pressing for the film industry has raised some concerns, there is broad support in the United States to push for changes to China’s film regulations. The film industry supports more than two million American jobs, according to industry data, and Hollywood has been a powerful force for exporting American culture around the world.

“Even if concessions are made in trade negotiations there’s a long way to go, because the business environment continues to keep Hollywood from operating on an equal plane,” said Aynne Kokas, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and the author of “Hollywood Made in China.”

Still, the China market has been lucrative for Hollywood, offering a rapidly growing box office and a ready source of financing, at a time when the American industry faces pressure from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and a saturated film market in the United States.

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