Romney campaign quietly promised ‘vigorous’ porn crackdown, Reagan prosecutor says
Former Justice Department official Patrick Trueman, who proudly participated in federal pornography prosecutions during their “heyday” in the late 1980s and early 1990s, told The Daily Caller that Mitt Romney’s campaign assured him that Romney would “vigorously” prosecute pornographers if elected president.
Trueman, the president of Morality in Media, contacted the Romney campaign earlier this year about the “untreated pandemic” of Internet pornography. “They got back to us right away,” he said.
Bob Flores, another former Justice Department official who prosecuted pornographers, accompanied Trueman to an hour-long meeting with Romney foreign and legal policy director Alex Wong, Trueman said.
“Wong assured us that Romney is very concerned with this, and that if he’s elected these laws will be enforced,” Trueman told TheDC. ”They promised to vigorously enforce federal adult obscenity laws.”
Trueman said he would like for Romney to speak publicly about cracking down on porn, but believes Romney avoids the subject because he “saw that Rick Santorum got beat up in the mainstream press for being so forthright.”
“With respect to Romney, I believe him,” said Trueman, “but I’d like to make sure he means it.”
Trueman said convictions for distributing porn that displays group sex, simulated rape, incest, psuedo child porn, violence or unusual fetishes — such as “scat” porn — are relatively easy. But, he said, “unless it’s just waist-up nudity of women’s breasts it probably can be found obscene somewhere in the country.”
Juries can find pornography obscene, and therefore unlawful, if the material violates subjective “community standards.” (OPINION: How pornography harms women — and men)
Companies, rather than individuals, are the targets of federal prosecutions, Trueman said. “You don’t go after your neighbor who happens to get a magazine in the mail,” he explained.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told TheDC earlier this year, however, that the Supreme Court has ruled that private possession of pornography is constitutionally protected, but that private receipt is not — meaning that individuals, too, could be prosecuted.
Recalling the tactics used when he served for two years in the Reagan administration and four years in the George H.W. Bush administration, Trueman said, “we had a target list put together by the LAPD and the FBI that consisted of about 60-65 top producers and distributors in the fifty states. We prosecuted them, and most of them went out of business or went to jail.”
After President Bill Clinton assumed office, Trueman said, the number of porn prosecutions plummeted and they have remained rare ever since.
Trueman expressed disappointment in the relatively low number of pornography prosecutions during the George W. Bush administration. “My understanding was that after 9/11 hit, [Attorney General John Ashcroft] was advised that he’d look frivolous if he did pornography cases,” Trueman said.
“We’ve had a couple administrations that didn’t do much and now we have widespread addiction and other problems,” he added, “but the laws are still good.”
Just a few federal inquests, said Trueman, would likely frighten most companies — such as hotels and cable providers — into completely disassociating themselves from porn. Most U.S.-based porn websites, he said, could easily be taken offline during a Romney administration, because a handful of companies manage vast online porn networks. Foreign websites, he admitted, “would be much more difficult” to address.
Earlier this year Romney released a statement promising “strict enforcement of our nation’s obscenity laws,” presumably indicating a willingness to bring back porn prosecutions. Campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul has not responded to TheDC’s requests for clarification.
Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson opposes Romney’s advocacy of prosecuting pornographers.
Johnson told TheDC that ”the decision to view or not view pornography should rest with individual adults,” and said he opposes “the government making adult choices for us in the privacy of our own homes, and trampling the First Amendment in the process.”
Not everyone, however, believes that Romney is serious about enforcing obscenity laws. “I don’t see any danger coming from Romney when it comes to porn. It’s just not there,” gay porn titan Michael Lucas told Yahoo! News’ Chris Moody in March. Lucas, who has endorsed Romney, added, “I think he will be much better than President Obama.”
Follow Steven on Twitter