Romney Promises to 'Vigorously' Prosecute Pornographers

JESUSLAND—It seems like just yesterday that Morality in Media president (and former National Obscenity Enforcement Unit prosecutor) Patrick Trueman was claiming that Americans have a constitutional "right to decency"—actually, it was two days ago—and now, Trueman claims that in a meeting he and cohort J. Robert Flores (formerly legal counsel to the pro-censorship National Law Center for Children & Families) had with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's foreign and legal policy director Alex Wong, Romney's on record as promising that he would "'vigorously' prosecute pornographers if elected president,' according to an article published by far-right-wing net-rag The Daily Caller.

"Wong assured us that Romney is very concerned with this, and that if he’s elected these laws will be enforced," Trueman told The Daily Caller. "They promised to vigorously enforce federal adult obscenity laws... With respect to Romney, I believe him, but I’d like to make sure he means it."

Trueman's hesitancy is because although he'd like Romney to speak publicly on the issue, and likely urged Wong to encourage Romney to do so, Trueman "believes Romney avoids the subject because he 'saw that Rick Santorum got beat up in the mainstream press for being so forthright'."

Indeed; while Romney released a statement back in February saying that "[I]t is imperative that we cultivate the promotion of fundamental family values. This can be accomplished with increased parental involvement and enhanced supervision of our children. It includes strict enforcement of our nation’s obscenity laws, as well as the promotion of parental software controls that guard our children from Internet pornography," he nonetheless refused to return a $2,500 donation to his campaign from Daniel Staton, then chairman of Friend Finder Networks, which owns Penthouse Studios and Penthouse magazine.

"Mr. Trueman’s comment—'Romney avoids the subject because he "saw that Rick Santorum got beat up in the mainstream press for being so forthright"'—is right on the money," commented First Amendment attorney and AVN columnist Clyde DeWitt. "In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans are against the idea of prosecuting pornography involving only willing adults, some simply because of the objection to wasting precious law enforcement resources on it, but most because they don’t see anything wrong with it."

The Daily Caller's Steven Nelson allowed Trueman to make several clearly false claims about porn prosecutions, including that "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," and that "unless it's just waist-up nudity of women's breasts, it probably can be found obscene somewhere in the country." While Trueman was no doubt referencing the recent conviction of Ira Isaacs for bestiality and scat videos, the only other federal conviction for producing sexually explicit material in the past decade has been Max Hardcore's.

Still, Trueman's statement underlines a point First Amendment attorneys and this magazine/site have been making for several years: That it is impossible for any adult content producer to know whether his/her product will be considered "obscene" in any jurisdiction in the country, thus lending ammunition to the argument that obscenity laws are too vague to be constitutionally enforceable.

Trueman also claimed that while he was a prosecutor under the Reagan and Bush I administrations, "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." In fact, only about half that number were brought to trial, under what was called Operation Wormwood, and Trueman's task force's tactics were eventually shot down by a federal court after mail-order distributor Adam & Eve sued the Justice Department for prosecutorial misconduct.

What Trueman hopes to see under a Romney administration, however, is "a few federal inquests [that] would likely frighten most companies—such as hotels and cable providers—into completely disassociating themselves from porn." He also claimed that since "a handful of companies manage vast online porn networks,"  most U.S.-based porn websites "could easily be taken offline during a Romney administration," though targeting foreign-based sites "would be much more difficult."

Whether Romney will be true to his anti-porn pledge remains to be seen, especially since his track record of issuing contradictory policy statements is well known. But that doesn't mean that Trueman and others on the Religious Right won't be using Romney's statements as a reason to get religio-conservative voters to the polls in November to elect the candidate who's most likely to lend a friendly ear to their sexually-warped concerns.

"The Republicans covet the vote and the money from the minority Religious Right, to which they are pandering with promises of supporting its minority view favoring outlawing pornography, abortion and even birth control," DeWitt observed. "If Romney placed those issues as the centerpiece of his campaign, he would be slaughtered in all of the swing states because it would galvanize the youth vote."

"This also is strong evidence that, if Romney is elected, he will appoint as many Samuel Alitos to the Supreme Court as there are vacancies, with comparable minds appointed to the lower courts," he added.