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:

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  1. We had the biggest evangelical SOCON imaginable as AG for the first four years of the Bush Administration. Maybe I just don't consume enough porn, but I could have sworn porn was pretty much readily available on the internet for the entire time. In fact it was I dare say more available than it was in the 1990s.

    Given that, why should I care if these clowns claim they are going to do?

    1. Because tax payer dollars? And people Stagliano who get threatened with decades of prison time, which, I dare say, is a bit stressful?

      1. How many cases were ever brought in the 00s Lucy? I can only remember one. And that was some guy who sold snuff films or sex with dead people or some such. I forget exactly.

        This is pretty low on the outrage list isn't it Lucy?

        1. Uh, the dude who did Max Hardcore got prison time.

        2. Nope. Because the concept of obscenity laws is obscene.

          1. Unless the model/actress has a fake ID then it's federal prison time for you pervs.

          2. Agreed - but why do you make an exception yourself?

            1. I don't think Lucy wishes to address that issue.

        3. The question of how many people get brought up on charges is a legit one, and I am searching the internets now for more background, but your attitude puzzles me here. It's a principle issue, and these laws do wreck people's lives or at least cost them money and time.

          1. I see that Lucy is getting her first real taste of what John is like.

            1. Ewwwww!

          2. It's also a good indicator of his views on freedom of speech and liberty in general.

          3. It's a principle issue, and these laws do wreck people's lives or at least cost them money and time.

            True enough, but I've seen more than enough posts on Reason to know that what Romney claims as a principle at any point in time has no predictive value.

            1. But this would be a relatively easy campaign promise to keep.

          4. I think with John (and probably others) it boils down to an issue of priorities. If you believe Obama is so much worse than Mitt on economic policy, you'll be able to forgive transgressions on obscenity law.

            1. But why would you think mitt is better on econ? they same.

              1. not you. anyone.

              2. Exactly....

    2. John, just because porn was still readily available on the Internet doesn't mean that 2257 and other newer bullshit hamstringing didn't destroy wealth. I worked in the industry at the time and knew others who had to radically scale back and either not hire or fire people they didn't want to because of the higher cost of regulatory compliance.

      1. I worked in the industry at the time

        In front of, or behind the camera? Or both?

        Details, man!

        1. Behind the camera. Not particularly glamorous really, but it was certainly interesting. For some reason I've only found vice industry jobs to be fulfilling.

          1. More specification, please. Cinematographer? Director? Accountant? Craft services/fluffer? Casting agent? Security?

    3. Why am I not surprised that in an article criticizing Romney, the first post is a post by John downplaying the whole thing?

    4. "SOCON" paternalism is gayer than productions by Romney campaign contributor- and co-producer of Star Wars episodes I, II, and III- Micheal Lucas.

    5. From what I've heard, child pornography was also readily available on the internet for the entire time - but that doesn't make life better for those who have been convicted for possession - including at least one virgin who was given a life sentence for being a "violent sexual predator".

    6. Drugs are readily available. Last I check that stuff was illegal as hell.

    7. Oh sure....we'll give them all that power...but lets just trust them because they are Republicans!!! No, nobody ever abuses their power. In fact "John" why don't you give me a Power of Attorney....you can trust me, don't worry.

  2. Isn't it progress that Romney has to hide his support of stamping out porn?

    If there was not going to be a voter back lash then why is he hiding it?

    1. Because the religious right barely trusts him as it is.

      1. That didn't actually make any sense. If he wanted to firm up his bona fides with the religious right, he'd be forthright with his desire to stamp out smut. He'd only be hiding it if he thought it would cost him more than he'd gain.

  3. I love that screen freeze of Gillespie Shatnering.

    1. If he was yelling KHAAAAAAAANNN that would be epic.

      1. Yeah, I salute the Reason.tv gent who chose that still.

      2. No, that's more the start of a speech that ends with a master computer destroying itself or an alien race completely changing its core beliefs.

  4. I also think he may be a tad bit full of himself lol.


  5. Gallup noted in a May poll that only 31 percent of respondents were okay with porn.

    I'm betting that many of those 69% are liars.

    1. Well....there is also a deffinitional issue...perhaps. What is "Pornography" is it a Nude scene on on "Girls" is it Ron Jeremy with his shirt off....anywhere (not only is that pornographic, it is just wrong!!!) Is Playboy pornography? Or does it have to be a DOnkey SHow b/f it's Pornography?

  6. Anyone else worried about pictures of nephews on their hard drives? Sometimes you save pictures to the wrong folder...

    1. Sounds like somebody's making a preemptive case. Cuff him, boys.

    2. U R, Penn State
      U R, Penn State

  7. only 31 percent of respondents were okay with porn

    What was the line from Law Order SVU: "it's a $200-billion-a-year industry but nobody admits watching it."

    1. I readily admit to watching porn, I would never admit to watching any of the LU shows.

      1. Seriously - that shit's embarrassing.

        1. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["embarrassingly bad television"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and Law and Order SVU is not that.

  8. First they came for scat and yadda yadda, kiddie porn, rape porn, ditto..

    ...now they're coming for GROUP SEX porn?!?

    Oh hell, no.

  9. Video still image FTW!

  10. I love the two options that are here: either when Romney he's going to do something, you can effectively dismiss anything he said because he actually won't, or he's going to go full socon asshole.

    Not good choices.

    1. It would be truly bizarre if he won and had to actually chose a course of action. I guess Mass peeps have seen it, but to the rest of us it's almost unimaginable.

      1. Will the cat be alive or dead when we open the box?

        1. Mitt Romney: the Schr?dinger Candidate.

          1. Good one...

  11. That photo of Romney makes me think of a visit to a proctologist.

    1. Or the Airport.

  12. Even with the Ashcroft Justice Department in power porn shops and strip clubs flourished in the Dallas area. For all their tough talk they'll never actually go after the adult entertainment industry out of fear of losing the male vote.

  13. It has come to the attention of this reputably certified industry professional that Patrick Trueman may or may not have administered or received milk enemas applied to the rectal region of himself or other individual consensual willing participants in the past or future. In my campervan.

  14. How can you defend child pornography laws? They are every bit as corrupt, ineffective, and abused as any other law and we already have laws against child abuse.

    There was a recent study that learned a large percentage of females under 18 have taken nude photos of themselves and sent them to someone. This sometimes leads to the girl or the the unknowing one she sends it to getting taken in for possessing child porn.

    There are issues with nudist families. There are issues with various native tribes. There was even a cd cover that caused a bit freak out a while back. There are issues with baby bathing pictures and family child photos.

    The laws may also allow them to censor and filter the internet and this leads down a slippery slope of more censorship. It is a way to get a filtering infrastructure in place "for the children" and then use it for filtering all porn and next thing you know we censoring all kinds of speech and expression. They will abuse the power if they have it.

    It's not just this, the laws for sex offenders are possibly even worse and have even more collateral damage. This all leads to males in the US being scared shit-less that they will go to jail because someone calls the cops when they are out playing with their young daughter. This shit happens and I don't think females understand. I get it, you don't like child porn. That doesn't mean you need to support horrible laws to prove it.

    1. +1

      Why aren't there male role models in schools? Because male teachers stand a 1 in 8 chance of being FALSELY accused of molesting children over the course of their careers. How many people are willing to go into a career where, due to circumstances beyond their control, they stand a 1 in 8 chance of losing their career, finding themselves in possession of an irrelevant education (because no one will hire them), probably lose their family and friends, and generally be socially ostracized for the rest of their life?

      The result is that men in the field of education are either too stupid to be educators, or are brave enough to make Delta Force look like cowards in comparison.

      All of this in support of an ideology that has no factual support. "Rind et al" demonstrated that children who have consensual sexual encounters with adults are seldom harmed by this - and Congress took the extreme step of condemning the study: the only time in the history of the United States when Congress has voted to condemn scientific inquiry. The child sexuality exception to free speech and free inquiry produces a host of problems for society, far more obscene than anything these laws make illegal.

      1. You are a fuck face son of whore that should thank physics that I can't reach through these tubes.

        1. Well said Mike c....

    2. If you have pictures of someone banging a child and beat off to them...don't let anyone like me know.

    3. You're completely correct, but the issue of age of consent and other questions that go long with discussing child porn in depth make a whole other, longer blog post. It is, however, extremely important, and Jacob Sullum has covered this issue very well. Sorry if I implied that I was defending the current laws now, only pointing out that issues with children are different. Even from an an-cap perspective, I believe this, but the sex offender registry, prosecuting teens for naked pictures of themselves, etc. are very serious.

  15. Knowing very little about the world of gay porn, I decided to look up this gay filmmaker slash Romney endorser Michael Lucas.

    Check out his photo - do you think he's seen Zoolander?

    Mildly NSFW (You'll probably get a tiny porn banner ad if you're not blocking them.)

  16. Not that I'm a huge Romney fan, but what's with all the speculation? Got any facts or do you just want to stir up a bunch of shit?

    1. How do assemble "facts" with ROmney? He lies every other sentence...the only candidate that comes close to the truth is Ron Paul and look where it gets him...even when he wins a Republican primary he loses...

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