By James Lambert*
August 2000 – Democratic National Committee Co-chair Rep. Loretta Sanchez announced that she would hold a political fundraiser this summer at the Playboy Mansion (West). Promoters planned this event to coincide with the DNC presidential convention scheduled for Los Angeles in August. California Republican spokesman John McGraw suggested Sanchez find a “more appropriate venue” than the “notorious Playboy Mansion.” Two calls to Ms. Sanchez’ press secretary were not returned.
Some political observers see this event as further evidence that the porn industry is attempting to preserve the political gains they have made during the last seven years of the Clinton/Gore Administration. “We’ve been living in this Never-Never Land for (the last) seven years,” said Jeffrey Douglas of the Free Speech Coalition (a trade organization that represents porn businesses).
Clearly, the current administration and Justice Department (DOJ) have been good to the porn industry. That is why porn entrepreneurs have steadfastly supported President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccioni admitted he is a “very pro-Clinton administration” supporter.
Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner was seen in a photo with President Clinton in a recent issue of his magazine. Larry Flynt, another print pornographer, published a single issue political magazine in 1999 with the express purpose of exposing “hypocrisy” among prominent Republicans after the Clinton impeachment inquiry. Flynt expressed his outrage by attacking the Republicans while strongly supporting Clinton.
David Schlesinger, porn video distributor of Vivid Video, flatly states, “President Clinton is a total supporter of the (porn video) industry and he’s always been on our team… He hasn’t tried to quash it (adult businesses) the way that the Republicans did back in the 1980s.”
California government porn lobbyist Kat Sunlove agrees: “Federal obscenity prosecutions have been on the wane during the Clinton years.”
Statistics and other evidence demonstrate little or no prosecution of illegal pornography by the Reno Justice Department. A Syracuse University report (TRAC, 1997) shows that obscenity prosecutions have decreased 86% since Clinton and Gore were elected. Pornographers and advocacy publications like Adult Video News have even admitted that, “adult obscenity enforcement by the federal government is practically non-existent since the administration changed.”
FBI Agent William P. Kelly worked for the FBI in Florida while Reno was an assistant district attorney and state’s attorney general of Dade County. (Kelly served in the South Florida area which included Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties). Now retired, he recently remarked that Reno “was never interested in taking on and prosecuting illegal obscenity,” much to the delight of local porn peddlers.
Michael Berish was one of the lead officers in the City of Miami Police Department’s vice unit. He retired from the police force in 1994. Within his jurisdiction, he noted that “the majority of obscenity cases involved organized crime figures that were responsible for the interstate distribution of this material.”
As a career police officer, he became frustrated when Reno absolutely refused (to him personally) to prosecute cases, even with the extensive evidence his department provided, with some even involving organized crime figures. This same pattern of not prosecuting illegal pornography is evident today in the Clinton/Gore administration’s DOJ.
As a career official, Robert Flores has worked in the DOJ in Washington since 1989. Near the beginning of Attorney General Reno’s tenure, Flores was appointed acting deputy chief of the child exploitation and obscenity section of the DOJ. In 1997, Flores said he “left the DOJ because I felt I could do more for families and children outside of government.” Flores became disillusioned with this administration's decision not to prosecute adult obscenity and its lack of cooperation in illegal child porn cases between his unit and the other 93 U. S. Attorneys around the country.
On May 23, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee held a hearing discussing Internet obscenity. Officials from the Justice Department, including Deputy Assistant Alan Gershel, were present. Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK) said, “The Justice Department admitted that it places no priority on stopping illegal material, having prosecuted not one perpetrator of Internet obscenity since 1996.”
Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-OH) has courageously taken a position different than that of the DOJ. He agrees that both illegal “obscenity and child pornography... should be prosecuted by the Justice Department.”
In California, Assemblyman Steve Baldwin has expressed his frustration over State Assembly Democrats’ efforts “in conjunction with the ACLU” to “constantly throw up roadblocks and obstacles in front of numerous bills” involving the sex industry. He goes on to say that “despite all the rhetoric from liberal Democrats to protect children, they really don’t care.”
With millions of dollars at stake, the porn industry is more interested in preserving the status quo, where enforcement of existing state and federal obscenity laws have been ignored since 1993.
As sex/adult merchandiser Eddie Wedelstedt of Goalie Entertainment laments, “If... Republicans get in,… we’re all going to have a problem.”
* James Lambert speaks publicly about pornography’s harmful effects on individuals and the community. He is the author of the book Porn in America. He lives in California with his wife, Lorraine, and their family.