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FSC's Lobbying Campaign: 1

Alex Henderson
In November, the Free Speech Coalition announced that it had hired the Raben Group — a Washington-based lobbying group whose clients have ranged from the American Civil Liberties Union to Sony Music — to take over its lobbying efforts.

Adult entertainment is, according to some estimates, a $56 billion industry worldwide, but it is an industry that FSC Legislative Affairs Director Kat Sunlove and others believe needs to develop a lot more influence and political muscle on Capitol Hill — and unless the industry becomes more aggressive in its lobbying efforts, Sunlove asserts, it will continue to be unfairly maligned by politicians.

"Unfortunately, the adult entertainment industry hasn't had very much influence on Capitol Hill," Sunlove told XBiz. "The way we have some influence is through mainstream corporations that carry our products — such as companies like Time Warner or large hotel chains that carry pay-per-view porn. Those are the major companies that utilize adult entertainment programming but don't do that as their primary business. But if you're looking at companies that deal with adult product exclusively, I don't think we have much direct influence on politicians. I think that any influence we have is exercised through these indirect channels, and part of that is the fact that politicians don't want to be associated with purely adult-oriented companies. It's too risky, in their opinion, and so they tend to stay away from us."

Bipartisan Attack
The FSC's alliance with the Raben Group comes at a time when adult entertainment is under attack from both Republicans and Democrats, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been quite vocal about his desire to increase the number of obscenity prosecutions, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D.-Ark, has called for a 25 percent federal tax on adult-oriented Internet transactions. Sexual freedom activist Lisa Lawless, founder of the National Association for Sexual Awareness and Empowerment (NASAE), stressed that the adult industry needs to intensify its lobbying efforts in order to combat political attacks, and she believes that the FSC's association with the Raben Group is a big step in the right direction.

"The adult industry is an easy target for politicians," Lawless told XBiz. "It's always easy to go after the adult industry in the name of going after indecency, obscenity and — their favorite — child pornography. In the name of going after child porn, politicians will go after legitimate businesses in the adult industry that have nothing whatsoever to do with child porn. And that is sad because if more politicians took the time to collaborate with us, they would actually find that we are more than happy to work with them as far as troubleshooting some of the problems that are out there. For example, when it comes to fighting child porn, people in the adult industry have a lot of great ideas and suggestions that politicians are not listening to."

Susan Wright, founder/director of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), believes that it is ridiculous that an industry as huge as adult entertainment allows itself to be pushed around by politicians and the Christian Right.

Wright, whose pro-S&M/bondage organization formed an alliance with the FSC in 2005, asserted that if other large industries can develop a strong lobbying presence on Capitol Hill, there is no reason why the adult industry shouldn't do the same.

"I'm so pleased that the Free Speech Coalition is doing this," Wright said of the FSC's alliance with the Raben Group. "This is the type of thing that needs to be done. Lobbying is very effective — that's why we created NCSF as a lobbying group. Basically, lobbying is just educating the politicians and the authorities. If nobody is educating them about the adult entertainment industry and alternative sexuality, they only have one side to go on — and that's what is happening with the current obscenity witch hunt."

Wright pointed to the NCSF's successful campaign against a proposed anti-S&M law in Missouri as an example of how effective lobbying can be. In 2002, Wright recalled: "The Missouri state legislature had proposed a law to outlaw all SM events in the state of Missouri. The Concerned Women for America, a religious/political organization, started a campaign against BDSM events in the Midwest. So we had to lobby all of the state senators, send letters and make contact with their offices. I debated a senator several times on the radio. The legislature was listening to political extremists who were spouting a lot of lies about what was happening at SM events. But we were successful — that proposed law was disabled, put on a shelf and never voted on. SM events continue in Missouri. So if you actually speak out about proposed legislation, you can make a difference."

In part two, we'll look at dealing with third parties and more.

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