Anti-Porn Crusaders Brownback, Others Accept Adult Contributions
Released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, “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 crusader Sen. Sam Brownback and former presidential candidate John McCain.
“It is one thing to be silent on the issue and accept porn purveyor’s contributions,” said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan. “However, these members of Congress attempt to slap pornographers with fines and legislative restrictions with one hand and turn around and accept porn profits with the other. Our report details the hypocrisy of this ‘skin caucus.’”
Previous investigations by XBiz had found that Brownback, who made headlines recently for holding congressional hearings about pornography and claiming that he knew businessmen who limited their time in hotel rooms because they couldn’t resist the temptation of pay-per-view erotica, received nearly $17,000 over a long period of time.
CREW’s new report, though, raises the ante, suggesting that Brownback, who only received a total of $1,000 from corporations linked to the adult industry during the 2002 election cycle, had more than sixteen times as much contributed during the 2004 cycle.
The contributors reported in CREW’s investigation include a group of cable companies, hotel chains and telephone services, which the group said draws hundreds of millions of dollars from adult content every year.
General Motors, for example, the parent company of DirecTV, was described by the New York Times as not only “the world’s largest company,” but also making more money off adult films than Larry Flynt’s Hustler empire.
The report specifically identifies Holiday Inn and Marriott, which make about $190 million a year in in-room adult movie sales; General Motors, Comcast Cable Systems, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Adelphia Communications, Cablevision Systems Corporation and Echostar Communications, which are part of the industry that generates more than $1 billion a year from adult pay-per-view and video-on-demand services; as well as several other phone and telecommunications companies, including AT&T and Comcast, which contribute to the $750 million to $1 billion a year made from phone sex services.
“Legislators are trying to have their cake and eat it too,” said industry attorney Frederick Lane, who helped introduce the report at CREW’s press conference and is the author of “Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age.” “They want their political contributions but they also want the moral support from opposing pornography.”
“[The corporations] get to have it both ways, too,” Lane told XBiz. “They get to make money off pornography day in and day-out, and then they get to put a feather in their cap when they contribute to people who oppose it. And, realistically, it’s not like their business would ever be hurt by what’s being proposed.”
Lane pointed to Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, who recently proposed allowing the FCC to set decency standards for satellite and cable television, as an example of morality plays by politicians that would probably have severe constitutional problems.
“The whole point, back in the 1930s, was that the government said, ‘this is a broadcast medium. Anybody can listen to it, so we’re going to protect the kids,’” Lane said. “But the Supreme Court has made it clear that, when people have to pay to get something, there’s greater First Amendment protection.”
Lane said that he expected a lot of the discussion about issues raised by CREW’s report to probably focus on the hypocrisy of condemning something to the public and then turning around and taking contributions from it.
“It’s not a hypocrisy issue, though,” Lane said. “It’s a First Amendment issue. These provisions that are being proposed in Congress are aimed at undercutting the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
The implications of the report could be far-reaching, said Lane, but he expects politicians to attempt to play off any questions they receive.
“It’s going to raise the profile of these issues, and it will probably give some members of Congress a good chuckle,” Lane said. “But let’s face it. These folks need an unbelieveable amount of money to run for office and they’re probably going to say that these corporations need advocation on a wide variety of issues, which is why they accept money from them.”
“They’re going to say, ‘well, we wish they didn’t do that, but we’re going to continue taking money anyway,’ and not a whole bunch is going to change,” Lane said.
Listed in the report are John McCain, who ran presidential advertisements in 2000 touting his anti-pornography record and helped pass the Child Online Protection Act, who received $46,000 for corporations involved in selling adult content; Senator Joe Lieberman, who once gave out ‘Silver Sewer Award’ for immoral videos and railed against indecency in modern media, who received $16,200; Missouri Senator Christopher Bond, 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,” and who received $20,500 in contributions.
The list also contains what CREW’s Sloan refers to as “the biggest hypocrite of all,” New Mexico Representative Heather Wilson, 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.
“It’s all sort of wink-wink, nudge-nudge right now, when it gets right down to it,” said Lane.
The report is available here.