Could it be that the House’s top energy lawmaker, Chairman W.J. “Billy” Tauzin of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is planning to leave Capitol Hill to head up the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)?

Rumors have been rampant for months that the Louisiana Republican is on the short list to succeed Jack Valenti, 82, who sources say will step down in January after nearly 38 years as president and chief executive officer of the MPAA. Neither Tauzin’s office nor the MPAA would confirm the reports.

“It’s all speculative at this point. There has not even been an official offer” made by the association to Tauzin, said a knowledgeable Capitol Hill source. The MPAA was not immediately available for comment.

Last month, MPAA spokesman Rich Taylor told Reuters that a leadership change at the MPAA was not in the offing. “We are not going to respond to rumors. There is nothing imminent. There is no current vacancy.”

Valenti, a White House staffer during the Johnson administration, has headed up the MPAA since 1966. The association is the chief lobbying group for the American motion picture, home video and television industries.

If Tauzin should depart Capitol Hill to join the MPAA, it’s not clear who would succeed him as chairman of the powerful energy and commerce committee. That would be a leadership decision, said an aide, but he believes the most likely candidate would be Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).

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