FSC Summit Takes Look at Next Steps to Battle Measure B

Rhett Pardon

LOS ANGELES — Thursday's Free Speech Coalition Summit drew a packed crowd at its inaugural event that for the most part provided attendees a bird eye's view on the latest legal issues that threaten the business.

Discussion over the passage of Los Angeles County's Measure B was the thrust of three of six seminars at the Sofitel hotel in Los Angeles.

And so was the shortfall of money for the "No on Government Waste Commitee," which was tasked to defeat the now-passed measure that requires porn actors to wear condoms on film sets and for producers to apply and pay for health and film permits.

Los Angeles County expects the program under Measure B to cost about $300,000 annually, with adult film producers footing the bill. The price per studio will depend on the number of studios paying the bill, which could amount to more than $11,000 if 50 studios fetch permits.

James Lee and Sue Burnside, who both led the No on Government Waste Commitee's campaign, said that the adult industry lost its bid to topple Measure B because of the lack of adequate funds.

"In our experience money equates success at the polls. That's the simple truth of it," Lee said. "You got to get on the air and tell your message.

"I've never worked on a campaign where you got near universal endorsement from every local newspaper," he said. "Looking at the data and the trends, you were on you way to a win. But we just didn't have enough time.

"In eight days [leading up to the vote], we shaved 20 points. You were able to speak as a unified industry as you've never done before."

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is said to have spent nearly $3 million on campaign efforts to get the so-called "Safer Sex" law passed, while the No on Government Waste campaign only could spend a fraction of that.

Burnside noted it was disappointing to run short of funds for TV and radio ad spots.

"At the end of the day you would see we were closing our margin just prior to the vote," Burnside said. "Our TV buyer told me if we only had four more days of TV day you could have won."

But Diane Duke, the FSC's CEO, said that fight against the AHF is not over and the trade group plans to challenge Measure B's passage in the courts in the beginning of a lengthy litigation and implementation process.

"The last few months have been an incredible experience," Duke said. "I can't lie to you ... on Tuesday night that we all felt a little deflated by the result. What has happened during those months is that I got to see the industry come together like I've never seen before."

"When there are important issues, I've seen the industry come together."

Industry attorney Jeffrey Douglas, who is the FSC's board chairman, said that the prior to litigation, the group will try to become active in series of hearings over the law's implementation with county supervisors.  

"Since there is zero appetite for this to go forward," Douglas said, "There won't be a rush [to create rules for the measure's implementation].

"The pressure point at some time is that the AHF said they will sue. The AHF is not interested in the implementation; there looking for a way to fundraise off the industry's back.

"Because the county knows they are going to be sued, they will make a good faith effort with implementation," he said. "And it is our job to point out all the obstacles and constitutional issues in order to protect the interest of the industry."

But Douglas said it's time that adult entertainment companies to pony up for litigation when needed, and that they shouldn't rely on Manwin, Vivid and LFP to always foot the legal bill.

"It's time to grow up," Douglas said. "If you want to be a true industry, then you got to pay the freight."

That thought was echoed by industry attorney Paul Cambria, who joined the noon Measure B panel that was assembled on Wednesday just after the election.

Cambria and Douglas were joined by another industry attorney, Clyde DeWitt, who gave his take on moving adult film shoots to Nevada, where he has an office.

Duke noted the Free Speech Coalition said it will begin exploring offers made by neighboring states in facilitating the move of production jobs out of Los Angeles County "as quickly as possible."

While the focus resonated on Measure B, another legal topic of industry interest was discussed at length — the FSC's lawsuit over 18 U.S.C. §§2257 or 2257A, the federal recordkeeping and labeling laws.

FSC counsel Michael Murray, who is litigating the case, said that the government's argument is untenable.

Justice Department attorneys, in recent court briefs, contend that given the absence of any ongoing inspection program and the uncertainty of future inspections, the Free Speech Coalition and other plaintiffs lack standing to pursue claims based on the 4th Amendment over unreasonable searches and seizures.

The FSC and other defendants are seeking a restraining order over future 2257 inspections.

Another seminar on Thursday included "World Markets," with panelists Douglas Richter, authorized consultant for AWE; Tom Stewart, owner of Sportsheets; and Keith Caggiano, co-owner of Screaming O. The seminar, focusing on navigating international online and retail distribution of sex toys and novelties, was moderated by Don Parret, XBIZ executive director of publishing.

"Diversification," which focused on adult entertainment company expansions, included panelists Theresa Flynt and Adam & Eve's Bob Christian.

The last seminar of the day, just prior to the FSC Awards, featured five veteran panelists in a discussion called “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” whose speakers included Greg Clayman, co-owner of Video Secrets; Alec Helmy, president and publisher of XBIZ, Steven Hirsch, Vivid's CEO; Paul Fishbein; and Susan Colvin, president and CEO of CalExotics. Cambria moderated the seminar.