Another Industry Group Hires a Man in Washington

The Online Publishing Association (OPA) said on Friday it had hired Michael Drobac as its first VP of government affairs.

Drobac, former director of government affairs for IAC, will anchor a new OPA office in Washington, DC. He comes to the post with knowledge of the influential Senate Commerce committee, having worked as a legislative aide in the offices of Senators Gordon Smith and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, both of whom served on the committee.

While the OPA is known more for research than for advocacy on behalf of members, it’s not a stranger to policy matters. Back in April the group filed public comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed self-regulation guidelines for behavioral targeting. And when the FTC held a Town Hall late last year, the OPA also participated.

In the April letter, OPA President Pam Horan voiced support for self-regulation, which she said “will enable OPA Members to adapt their practices quickly to new developments in a dynamic digital publishing environment in which technology and related advertising models can change rapidly.”

Drobac told ClickZ he expects to focus mainly on federal policy, though he will monitor state-level activity. “Connecticut, New York, and California are going to be important and may impact the debate in Washington,” he said. “I will definitely watch the states and engage when appropriate.”

When asked whether the election of Barack Obama will lead to more regulation of digital media, as some policy experts have argued, Drobac expressed doubt. He contended that technology and telecommunications issues “don’t break to one party or another.”

“They are incredibly savvy about technology and telecommunications issues,” he said of Obama’s staff, citing his experience working with them when the president-elect was serving as U.S. senator from Illinois. “I don’t see these as being partisan issues.”

It was almost exactly a year ago that the Federal Trade Commission held its Town Hall meeting on behavioral targeting, a confab that was followed quickly by a set of proposed guidelines for industry self-regulation. Then came the ISP behavioral targeting hubbub and the Congressional hearings looking into it.

Partly in response to the din, several Web companies and trade groups — including the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) — have lately increased their D.C. presence.

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