Would President Mitt Romney "Vigorously Enforce" Obscenity Laws?


It seems like it's been a while since the Department of Justice — so busy making terrorist plots and then stopping them, selling guns to cartels, and shutting down medical marijuana clinics— took some time to focus on what's really important, pornography. They haven't done that a lot during Obama's tenure (they've been mostly focusing on stamping out child pornography for some weirdly sensible reason). However, The Daily Caller is reporting that there are whispers of a Mitt Romney presidency that would involve some George Bush/ John Ashcroft-style crackdowns* on those weirder quirks that adults sometimes enjoy in their privacy of their homes. 

Back in debate season, both Gingrich, Santorum, (no surprise there) and Romney expressed support for federal obscenity prosecutions to the organization Morality in Media. They all also signed the group's anti-porn pledge. Now former DOJ 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."

Noted Raw Story back in February, it wasn't just campaign whispers to placate social cons, Romney specifically supports obscenity laws:

Romney told the group it was "imperative that we cultivate the promotion of fundamental family values."

"This can be accomplished with increased parental involvement and enhanced supervision of our children," he said in a statement.

"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."

Huffington Post also reported that Romney said in 2007 he would require all new computers to have a porn filter.

Generally, Romney is not known for that sort of culture warring, that was more Santorum and his last gasp of Christian Conservatism. And:

Despite those tough words, Romney's campaign has taken campaign cash from the head of a company that produces hard-core pornography. And gay porn filmmaker Michael Lucas, who has endorsed Romney, told the Daily Caller, "I don't see any danger coming from Romney when it comes to porn. It's just not there."

Huffpo also suggests that the desire to lure Ron Paul supporters over to the Romney camp might mean that playing the moral crusader too much would alienate the libertarian-leaning. It's clear that the economy is what's on voters' minds.

But that's not to say Romney's DOJ wouldn't butt into adults' business. After all, they can. Stanley vs. Georgia (1969) struck down state restrictions on private pornography possession, but then came the the pain-in-the-ass vagueness of Miller. vs. California (1973) which specified the three-prong test for determining whether material is obscene or not; this provoked many exciting opportunities for "know it when I see it" jokes , and for much chin-scratching about the absurdly subjective test that is "community standards."

From a small government standpoint, it's pretty damn logical that if the DOJ is doing anything about obscene materials, it should be doing something about child porn and that's it. Anything else is stepping on free speech. And Romney sounds politely okay with that. But even with the economy a priority, Americans still button their shirts all the way to the top when asked about morality. Gallup noted in a May poll that only 31 percent of respondents were okay with porn

[*Addendum: link added.]

Reason on obscenity, and Reason.tv back in 2010 on the John Stagliano trial and what obscenity even means: