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GOP staffer chosen to head RIAA

Mitch Bainwol, former chief of staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, will replace Hilary Rosen as chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America.

The Recording Industry Association of America has tapped a former Republican Senate staffer to replace Hilary Rosen as chief executive, firming up the group's leadership during one of the most controversial moments in its history.

The big record labels' trade group said Monday that Mitch Bainwol, former chief of staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, will replace Rosen at the RIAA's helm. Rosen left the group several months ago, after announcing her planned departure in January.

Although Bainwol has little experience inside the music industry, he brings deep connections to the Republican Party, something the RIAA has largely lacked under Rosen's leadership.

"Mitch brings to the RIAA the consummate insider's understanding of political nuance in Washington," Roger Ames, CEO of Warner Music Group, said in a statement. "I'm confident he has the ability to clearly communicate the issues and challenges the music industry faces and to partner effectively with the computer, consumer electronics and music publishing businesses to help us address those issues in all appropriate forums."

Bainwol joins the RIAA at a critical moment in the group's history, as it plans to launch what could be thousands of lawsuits against individual music consumers who have allegedly traded large numbers of copyrighted songs online. The controversial drive, already under way, has threatened to further compromise the industry's relationship with online consumers.

The new RIAA head has moved in GOP political circles for most of his professional life. He began his career as a budget analyst in President Reagan's Office of Management and Budget and has variously served as a Senate staffer, as chief of staff for the Republican National Committee and as executive director of the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

"I'm delighted to take on this role," Bainwol said in a statement. "What could be more rewarding than helping to promote two great American traditions: music and property rights?"

Bainwol will begin his duties Sept. 1, the RIAA said.