Group Demands Refund of Playboy Campaign Contributions

Steve Javors
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Republican and Democratic candidates for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee have been asked by the Eagle Forum to return campaign contributions from Video Gaming Technologies and Playboy, respectively.

The Eagle Forum was founded in 1972 by arch-conservative Phyllis Schlafly who is best-known for her book, “A Choice, Not An Echo.” Schlafly is an avowed opponent of feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment. She serves as president of the group, which has offices in 43 states, and opposes adult entertainment and gambling.

Democrat candidate Harold Ford Jr. was criticized by the group for accepting $3,600 in donations from the adult entertainment industry, including a contribution from Playboy Chairwoman Christie Hefner. Bowing to public pressure, Ford returned the donations.

His general election opponent Republican Bob Corker received a $2,100 contribution from Video Gaming Technologies, a company that makes video gambling machines. Corker’s campaign manager Ben Mitchell said his candidate would keep the donation sent from VGT President Jon Yarborough because the company operates a legal business in the state.

Ford’s case is not the first instance of a politician who has returned campaign checks sent by adult entertainment companies.

In 2005, Tom Gallagher, a Republican running for governor of Florida on a platform of family values, returned several campaign contributions from Penthouse Media Group, Penthouse Images Acquisitions and other Penthouse-affiliated companies.

Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, had initially accepted seven checks totaling more than $3,000 from the companies but later said accepting money from pornography did not fit with his conservative vision for Florida.

However, Gallagher said he would keep 18 additional contributions from companies affiliated with Boca Raton-based Marc Bell Capital Partners, which purchased Penthouse after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

In a report released in March 2005 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington titled, “Addicted to Porn: Members of Congress Accept Political Contributions from Porn Purveyors” features information on 11 members of the House of Representatives and four different senators, including anti-adult crusaders Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and John McCain, R-Ari.

According to the report, Sen. John McCain, who ran presidential advertisements in 2000 touting his anti-pornography record and helped pass the Child Online Protection Act, received $46,000 from corporations involved in selling adult content.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who once gave out ‘Silver Sewer Award’ for immoral videos and railed against indecency in modern media, received $16,200.

Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mich., who once argued, “Contrary to what the ACLU will tell you, the Communications Decency Act does not ban speech or interrupt the free exchange of ideas among adults,” and said in a press release, “I’m not going to lose sleep if we make it a little tougher for pornographers to do business over the Internet,” received $20,500 in contributions.

The list also contains what CREW’s Sloan refers to as “the biggest hypocrite of all,” Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who once demanded that Vice President Al Gore return a contribution from an adult entertainment website and told Viacom President Mel Karmazin in a Commerce subcommittee meeting that he cared more about profits than morality. Wilson accepted $47,000 in campaign contributions from corporations that deal in adult entertainment.