Bullying Busybody for Senate

How Connecticut's attorney general beat Craigslist into submission

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal may never have served in Vietnam (despite his recollections to the contrary), but he is a hero in the war on prostitution. Armed with nothing but sternly worded letters, indignant press releases, and a seemingly inexhaustible store of self-righteousness, Blumenthal played a key role in pressuring Craigslist to shut down its "adult services" section, which he called a "blatant Internet brothel."

On Friday night, the online classified ad service replaced the hyperlink to the controversial section with a black rectangle labeled "censored." If Blumenthal has anything to say about it (and you know he will), no one will ever pay for sex again.

Strictly speaking, prostitution is none of Blumenthal's business, and not just because consensual sex between adults, whether or not money changes hands, is beyond the proper scope of government. As Connecticut's Division of Criminal Justice explains on its website, the state's attorney general "has no jurisdiction whatsoever over criminal matters and no authority to prosecute criminal violations of the law."

Although fighting prostitution is not part of Blumenthal's portfolio as attorney general, it is part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate, in which he portrays himself as a crusader who is unafraid to challenge "the biggest special interests." With an estimated $122 million in revenue this year, Craigslist is not all that big, but it dominates the online classified ad business and runs one of the country's most popular websites.

Conflating prostitution with slavery and child rape, Blumenthal accused Craigslist of profiting from horrendous crimes. "We recognize that craigslist may lose the considerable revenue generated by the Adult Services ads" if it closes the section, Blumenthal and 16 other state attorneys general wrote in an August 24 letter to the company. "No amount of money, however, can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution, and the suffering of the women and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by craigslist."

Blumenthal ignores both the law's role in fostering coercion and violence by driving the business underground and the protection that services like Craigslist can provide by allowing prostitutes to screen customers and avoid walking the streets. But to fully appreciate the audacity of his charge that money blinded Craigslist to the suffering of sex slaves, note that the company started charging for adult service ads in 2008 at the behest of law enforcement officials. The idea was that fees would thin the section, while requiring a credit card and a valid phone number would deter criminal activity.

Craigslist also hired dozens of lawyers to screen ads for compliance with the company's terms of use, which prohibit "offer or solicitation of illegal prostitution." Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster reports that "more than 700,000 ads were rejected by those attorneys in the year following implementation of manual screening" in May 2009, while Village Voice Media’s Backpage.com (where the ads are far more explicit) saw a big increase in business.

No doubt many of the masseuses, companions, and erotic dancers advertising on Craigslist were still selling sex, but they were a little more subtle about it, which is all that the law requires of such ads. Look up "massage," "escorts," or "entertainment adult" in a big-city phone book, and you will see ample evidence that Blumenthal's crusade is really a matter of taste.

As an "interactive computer service," Craigslist had no obligation to screen ads; under federal law, posters are exclusively responsible for such content. By taking precautions that were bound to be less than completely effective, the company invited further demands from bullying busybodies like Blumenthal, who deemed last week's capitulation merely a "step in the right direction."

The ads that offended Blumenthal already have begun migrating to other Craigslist sections (which are unscreened and generally free) or to less fastidious competitors. As company founder Craig Newmark remarked about a CNN ambush interview aimed at revealing him as a virtual pimp, "The point was what?"

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Suki||

    Good morning, Reason!

  • Mr Whipple||

    So, Conn voters have a choice between this douchebag and the wrestling queen? Meanwhile, Peter Schiff comes in third in the Republican primary?

    Somebody, please, push the reset button, already. I can't take it anymore!

  • Wegie||

    Why would Connecticut voters be any smarter than the rest of the country?

  • ||

    A bunch of Ivy League college grads?

  • flyingsquirrel||

    Just because one has an Ivy league degree doesn't mean he has the sense God gave a retarded rabbit.

  • ||

    Retarded rabbit? Racist against rabbits. Orsomething all I know is I'm offended.

  • Plate-O||

    Remember, these are the same people who repeatedly send Joe Lieberman back to Congress.

  • canada goose jackets||

    I really appreciate for this topics you post here. Thanks for sharing information with all, that is actually helpful.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...note that the company started charging for adult service ads in 2008 at the behest of law enforcement officials.

    As soon as Blumenthal began his senate run, Craiglist should have started contributing 100% of the adult services ad revenue to his campaign.

  • ||

    Should have funneled money to his opponent. Why reward people who are fucking you over?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Because his opponents could then campaign on the fact that Blumenthal receives campaign donations from evil child sex slave rings.

  • ||

    One question for Blumenthal:
    does she swallows, or does she spitzers?
    You know, he even looks like Spitzer - I would not be surprised to find out that he partakes of the Craigslist "services"

  • Ted S.||

    Each and every one of these AGs ought to be asked how long Spitzer should have spent in jail.

    Further, they should be hectored into saying on recotd that Spitzer is a wicked human being.

    State AGs are truly nasty hypocrites who really should be barred by state constitutions for running for further elective office.

  • Wegie||

    As I said before attorneys general are scummy bastards and will do anything to further their political careers.

  • ||

    Each and every one of these AGs should be hanged.

  • Old Salt||

    Yet another old white man who thinks that he knows whats best for everybody. Fuck me...does this mean that I'm going to turn into an asshole too as I age?

  • DADIODADDY||

    apparently not waiting to age...

  • Old Salt||

    Of course I'm an asshole, just like everyone else on the planet! What I'm worried about is if I have the genetic predisposition turn into a big enough asshole to want to run for office!

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    The fact that you're worried about it even a little is a good indicator for NO.

  • Big Pharma||

    There's a pill for that!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    And... he's a Democrat. Usually, it's the Republicans who are the prigs and bluenoses, but this time the sexually-repressed busybody is a liberal.

    Which is just as bad, really.

  • ||

    Ummm, my experience with the Hawaii legislature is that the majority of the Democrats are "prigs and bluenoses" too. I mean, 90% Democrats in the legislature, and prostitution is just as illegal as in red states -- draw your own conclusions.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    True, but one would expect liberals to be more, um, liberal about things sexual. IMO, bluenosed Dems are only in it to try to fool the moderate-to-conservative voters into believing they're in it to help society.

    Full-bore conservative lawmakers. OTOH, are in it because they dig on being able to wield their Bible-based powers.

  • ||

    It means you'll BE an asshole if you want power enough to become a U.S. Senate.

    People like Blumenthal are not a representative cross-sample of the whole populace.

  • ||

    I have actually gotten more
    ?tolerant? ?libertarian? ?don't give a f*ck what anybody else does? as I age.
    I used to be hard on crime until I realized the tough on crime crowd has a lot of perverse incentives, and there is no more reason to think they are really interested in the common good than any other bureaucrat or politician trying to make themselves look good.

  • ||

    good article.

  • Milama||

    it`s worth seeing

    http://cvresumewritingservices.org/

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Oh boy, more spam.

  • Hawaii'an||

    It's whats for dinner!

  • ||

    You wouldn't say that if you had a well-written résumé.

  • Unemployed||

    Really? Then what does it mean if you're eatin' Alpo?

  • ||

    Some madams and higher priced adult services providers are very happy with Mr. Blumenthal and Marsha Coakley today. I hope they all contract STDs.

  • Pat Htoasia||

    That's the spirit!

  • ||

    I am sure all of the local city papers who pretty much stay in business by running these kinds of ads are very happy with this. I wonder if maybe the publishers of those papers gave some money to the AGs. Make no mistake, this dirt bag doesn't give a shit about prostitution. It is all about money and power.

  • ||

    Tom Dart, the Cook County (Chicago) Sheriff was also a big Craigslist adversary on this issue...now that Daley has said he won't be running for Mayor, I wonder if Dart will use his War on Erotic Services as a mayoral campaign theme?

    Is it just me or does it seem like these law enforcement officials increasingly see the law as a means to their own political ends?

  • Paranoidia||

    You're right on target, especially when you consider that National Geographic stated a few years back that roughly 70% of ALL elected officials in these United States have a LEGAL degree. The article I read was talking about China's economic explosion and how roughly 70% of Chinese politicians have a SCIENCE degree!

    I hate the Chinese government but I'd much sooner be friends with an evil Chinese scientist than I would be with a moral American lawyer!

  • Duh||

    Like anyone really needed National Geographic to tell us the we have a majority of lawyers in politics. One need only look at the donations and protections offered to lawyers in the way of never fixing the fucked up system that allows them all to be blood sucking leeches. Or how about the way they make laws such that they create the very complications by which they hope to ensure you having to hire them to do anything in the legal system by default? Much like the way the politicians fuck things up and then claim they know how to fix the very same things. Yet the general public believes these lying douche bags everytime because they are smooth talkers in nice suits. When will people realize crooks wear suits too?

  • sarcasmic||

    Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and a moral American lawyer walk into a bar...

  • Police Academy Cadet||

    I assume you're talking about the Blue Oyster?

  • ||

    ""Is it just me or does it seem like these law enforcement officials increasingly see the law as a means to their own political ends?""

    By political ends, you mean get votes on election day. So who fault is it that it works that way, the idiots that are running for office, or the idiots that elect them to higher office using the tough on crime platform?

    If we stop electing them, maybe they will go away.

  • Warty||

    No morning links? This is bullshit. Unless the taxpayers build me some morning links, I'm moving to Baltimore.

  • Mr Whipple||

    That's funny. The article didn't say how many union construction jobs were created when they built those places.

  • ||

    I found a weed hook-up on Criagslist once, but the dude was a major scumbag. The first time I bought from him, he told me about a scam he ran on the adult services section before the whole credit card requirement deal. He'd meet up with johns, tell them the girl was "in that car over there", take the money and split. Fucking douche -- and his weed sucked too.

    The only reason it worked at all, of course, was that his victims couldn't report the crime to the cops.

  • ||

    Some people really do need killing. I sincerely hope that guy finally ripped off the wrong person and got a .45 shoved up his ass.

  • ||

    Be the first of your friends to like this.

  • ||

    For all I know he did -- obviously I didn't become a frequent customer of his. But yeah, go around dicking people over in the black market like that, and sooner or later you'll end up on the wrong side of a bad situation.

  • trhawk||

    I always wondered why there are so many republican leaning people on this site with the name of John, and I wondered why they were on a libertarian website. And then bam, there it is.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    What I found astounding is that, after hearing that story, you still bought weed from him.

  • ||

    Hah, hey what was I going to do, go home dry? I mean I had already met up with the dude and everything. But after that one time I was all "fuck that guy." Never talked to him again.

  • ||

    I'm sorry, but "the first time I bought from him" implies that you went back, even though his weed was terrible and you knew he was a ripoff artist. You a glutton for punishment, or what?

  • Michael||

    No, it implies that the guy was brazen enough to inform his first time customers that he was a scam artist who couldn't be trusted. Are you reading from left to right starting at the top?

  • ||

    Thanks Michael. Yeah, I was just trying to emphasize that this dude was enough of a scumbag criminal to brag about that stupid shit to someone he just "met".

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    Sorry for the threadjack, but I'm giddy with antici.......SAY IT!....pation.

    A slap fight in Kansas between wind-power greenies and "animal rights" activists is brewing!

    I'll bring the popcorn....

    Wind power advocates (a scam, as it would take 200 years for them to turn a profit without Gov. subsidies) want to place a high-voltage transmission line through Kansas and down in to Oklahoma in order to tie in a couple of proposed wind farms to the grid.

    Environmental groups are calling *fowl* (hehe), because the line would go through "prime breeding and nesting grounds" of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. They are concerned that it would put the bird on the endangered list. The wind folks say that the line would cause minimal impact on the birds.

    The local Birkenstock crowd isn't going to know which way to turn. Head explosions, film at 11.

  • ||

    I am siding with the chickens. Build a coal or a nuclear plant instead of using up thousands of acres that could otherwise be untouched.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    I'm a little conflicted. My Mom has family land in OK, a wind-power group is negotiating with her and a couple of other landowners right now for a new wind farm.

    Wind turbines are a monumental waste of money, but a fuck-ton of that monument might end up in her pocket. ;^)

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    One thing, a lot of the land that get wind farms is grazing pasturage anyway. The ground-level footprint is fairly negligable, and the cattle don't seem to give a shit either way.

    But I'm against it on anti-subsidy principal.

    Also, it's a good thing the LPC is a walker/low flyer. Otherwise, this would be a real shit-storm for the left.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    fuck! principal = principle

  • ||

    Lesser Prairie Chicken

    Poor little guy. The cruel nicknames you get in grade school often stick around forever.

  • Artemis Fowl||

    Better than the guy who was called "The Choked Chicken."

  • ||

    Well, poor LPC was once a matched pair, but Greater Prairie Chicken died on prom night. At least it was from heart strain after he had sex 11 times.

  • Big Pharma||

    Dammit! We keep saying call a doctor if your erection lasts for longer than an hour!

  • Craigslist||

    NO!!! Call us if your erection lasts longer than an hour!

  • Almanian||

    Perfect - thanks for bringing the popcorn! I got a two-four of Labatt - let's enjoy!

    I'm with John - got my mind on my money and my money on the chicken...

  • Mr Whipple||

    I don't know about Kansas, but this green power isn't just a bunch of tree huggers anymore. It's big, big business for the power companies. The kind of "big business" those liberal/progressives are always complaining about. Well, be careful what you wish for, assholes.

  • ||

    When I was on my way out at GE -- the biggest corporation in the country, and one of the most politically connected -- they really started to ramp up the internal masturbatory windmill love.

  • Mr Whipple||

    In my old neighborhood, the regional power company, PSE&G is placing solar panels on every telephone pole. But what the hell? They were already a public service monopoly. But they are "forced" to "share" the poles with the other public service monopolies, Comcast and Verizon.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    The price of being a public service monopoly. Move over piggie, there's still room at the trough.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    Yeppers. My 22 yo keeps pipe-dreaming (pun intended) about all the cash money he's going to make growing pot when it's legalized.

    I keep telling him that the second it's legalized, ADM will have 2,000 acre pot farms in the bread basket.

  • JD||

    I bet they won't until it is legalized federally; the asset forfeiture temptation with a large corporation frowing a federally illegal crop will be too great far the DEA [i]el al.[/i] to resist otherwise.

  • JD||

    That should be et al. (the Latin abbreviation, not the Israeli airline).

  • ||

    Just get them a satanic mechanic.

  • ||

    But maybe the rain wasn't really to blame.

  • Some Guy||

    But first, come up to the lab...

  • luddite neanderthal||

    back to the caves

  • hmm||

    Time to open an offshore craig's list.

  • Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow||

    The Erotic Review and USA Sex Guide are among many hosted offshore. The two sites are prominent among those that allow Johns to screen for fakes, scams and diseased providers.

    Both feature advertising. TER may not be what it once was, however. As noted, there are dozens of other sites, many prominent in one specific region...

  • ||

    Nice link, Warty.

  • Socrates||

    I finally beat reason to a topic! My humble blog took this on in a post called "Craigslist stops linking to ads for 'erotic services.' Prostitution magically goes away." - http://solutionproblem.wordpre.....goes-away/

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "and the suffering of the women and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by craigslist."

    If you meet someone and have sex with them, you're enjoying life. If you meet someone and have sex with them and collect payment from them, you're being "victimized" and "suffering" at the hands of the owner of the building or website in which you met, and the fact that you met *there* is proof that the owner was "trafficking" you.

    Oh goodness, I'm sorry. I take it all back. I didn't realize it was all for the kids. We all know you would never exploit "the children" to scare up extra support. FUCKING DISHONEST BULLY SHITHEAD!
    Young teenagers fuck all the time. Young teenagers will continue to fuck all the time. The only thing that stops young teenagers from fucking is the process of aging, and that's only because they're not young anymore, they still fuck.

  • prolefeed||

    Not sure why Craigslist doesn't just shut down adult services for CT -- and post a note on the web page saying that the person responsible is Blumenthal, and by the way, the culprit is running for Senate ...

  • prolefeed||

    shorter version -- CL should make the asshole pay a price for his grandstanding.

  • DesigNate||

    That would be epic. Too bad they don't have the stones to do it.

  • alan||

    I see it every where but it seems especially true that politically manipulative jackass attorney generals use that office as a stepping stone to advance political careers in the North East than anywhere else. What's the deal?

  • ||

    Did a search on CL using the keyword "sex", and stuff like this (NSFW) popped up -- looks like the hookers are just advertising in a different section now.

  • ||

    Apparently the difference between "discreet" and "discrete" eludes some sex workers.

  • Jennifer||

    I have this vague recollection of a story involving Blumenthal and Glenn Back; IIRC it was after the rich-guy bailouts, and Blumenthal floated the idea of prosecuting executives of bailed-out companies that got mucho tax-funded bonuses. Which is admittedly sleazy behaviour, but wasn't/isn't illegal and therefore nothing for a state AG to get involved with. Apparently Beck grilled Blumenthal on TV and got him to admit that no, he didn't actually have the legal authority to do that

    Glenn Crazypants Beck makes more sense and has a better grasp on legal realities than Connecticut's state attorney general. Christ on a stick, I am SO desperate to get the hell out of this state.

  • ||

    You say that like there's a politically reasonable alternative to be found in another state.

  • Jennifer||

    Well, no, there probably isn't. But at least in other states, assuming you leave the Northeast and stay the fuck away from California, I could keep a bit more money for myself rather than hand so much over to corrupt state and local officials.

    True anecdote: a few weeks ago there was a comment thread here -- I think the topic was something like "Old folks can't afford to retire In This Economy" -- and one guy made a comment like "Yeah, well, they had no way of knowing their home property tax bills would jump to $550 a month!"

    And I responded, as a Connecticut resident, asking the location of this low-tax utopia where you had to bribe the government "only" $550 a month to be allowed to keep the modest house you already bought and paid for. Sad thing is, the original commenter thought his "$550 per month property tax" statement was ludicrously hyperbolic -- but where I live, here in Blumenthalland, that's a bona fide bargain. That's the monthly tax bill for a crumbling crackerbox house in a shabby neighborhood in a city that brags about how low its tax rates are compared to neighboring towns.

    Thank God for the housing bubble; otherwise I might've bought a house in 2002 or so, not knowing how utterly egregious local tax rates were.

  • ||

    Yeah, property taxes scare the shit out of me, and make me think I'll be a renter for the rest of my life.

    But even in those "tax-friendly" states, there are often work-arounds that get the state its fix. For instance, when I moved from NY to NC, I was introduced to the practice of paying yearly taxes on significantly valuable personal (non-real estate) property, like my car.

    Plus there were other unfamiliar state-run institutions, like the ABC liquor stores. Generally they're going to extract their pound of flesh somehow.

  • ||

    Wait, states without excise taxes? Sign me up. Shit, I live in MA, with the hefty property taxes, hefty state income taxes, and hefty excise taxes, which is the one that really burns me. I mean fuck me, a yearly tax on a fucking car that I already paid sales tax on? And that I also have to reregister every few years, plus pay for an inspection sticker every year?

    Plus Martha Coakley.

    At least we can smoke our pot unmolested, though.

  • ||

    You say that like there's a politically reasonable alternative to be found in another state.

    There are. States like Texas or Nevada aren't as avaricious as CT.

    Unfortunately, liberals seem to have occupied all the really desirable real estate and foisted bad governments as the price of nice weather, with the possible exception of the South.

  • ||

    The whole mentality of Connecticut/New England is, if you don't allow the cultural in-group/collective to dictate and involve itself in every aspect of your personal life and join the collective every chance you get (regardless of how wrong the collective may be), then you are part of the out-group, a group that deserves all the abuse/ridicule/hatred that the in-group can give it. This is sewn into the culture up there, it's not just a political theory.

    I bring this up because it explains a bit about why the region embraces social liberalism so quickly and thoroughly in every issue, offering no meaningful deliberation for anything.

  • ||

    *"personal life...and if you don't join the collective..."

    Had to fix that sentence in my previous post.

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  • Legal Mafia||

    Just more proof that we live under a government of the Sopranos for the Sopranos and by the Sopranos. If you're going to post on a libertarian site, at least understand the first principle. That initiation of force always wrong, whether it's the crips holding up a liquor store or some a-hole AG's destroying the property of millions of peaceful ad posters and billboard providers.
    Might be time to amputate the entire east coast. Everyone of them thinks tyrants like Blumenthal, Juliani, and Bloomberg and their illegal use of Gestapo tactics are the greatest things since Abraham Lincoln's generals murdered millions of women, children, and non-military citizens to "free" the slaves.

  • titaniumjewellery||

    Our Titanium Jewellery are guaranteed forever against scratching and breakage.

  • ||

    A slap fight in Kansas between wind-power greenies and "animal rights" activists is brewing!

    I'll bring the popcorn....

    Wind power advocates (a scam, as it would take 200 years for them to turn a profit without Gov. subsidies) want to place a high-voltage transmission line through Kansas and down in to Oklahoma in order to tie in a couple of proposed wind farms to the grid.

    Environmental groups are calling *fowl* (hehe), because the line would go through "prime breeding and nesting grounds" of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. They are concerned that it would put the bird on the endangered list. casino onlineThe wind folks say that the line would cause minimal impact on the birds.

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