Family Groups Protest 'White Collar Smut Peddlers'

July 7, 2008 - 8:04 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Mainstream U.S. corporations are making billions of dollars from material they wouldn't dare show their employees for fear of being sued, a leading anti-obscenity crusader said.

Corporate giants such as AT&T, MCI and Time-Warner - not to mention most of the nation's leading hotel chains - are getting filthy rich from the sale of pornography, Janet LaRue, chief counsel with Concerned Women for America, said at a Washington press conference Wednesday.

"These mainstream corporations market a product they dare not show at their annual Christmas party or at their shareholders convention ... yet they're profiting from it by putting it out there in American homes and hotels," LaRue said.

If corporations allowed the obscene material they profit from to be shown on their premises, they would risk losing millions of dollars in sexual harassment or hostile work environment lawsuits, she said.

Pornography earnings in the United States are estimated to be between $10 billion and $14 billion a year, principally from adult videos, escort services, cable, satellite and pay-per-view TV, CDs and DVDs, and Internet sales and memberships, LaRue said.

A lot of the pornography could be considered obscene and therefore prosecutable under federal laws - but much of the material could not be distributed without the help of businesses with family-friendly images, including credit card companies, she said.

"The pornographers are glad to let you know exactly what they make, but the mainstream corporations aren't too proud" to make those figures public, LaRue said.

Patrick Trueman, an attorney with ObscenityCrimes.org, said corporate leaders are able to downplay their role in the pornography industry because they're not made to feel the sting of the law.

"They don't believe that they will be prosecuted because nothing's happened now in 10 years," said Trueman, former head of the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

"I think it's up to this Justice Department to make something happen, enforce the law that citizens have gotten Congress to pass, because once they begin prosecuting, you will find that these mainstream companies ... will feel that their shareholders will not tolerate prosecutions of the parent corporation," he said.

To help stop the proliferation of porn spam on the Internet, Trueman helped set up ObscenityCrimes.org, a project of New York-based Morality in Media.

People who object to receiving unsolicited porn spam with their emails may now file a report of the incidents online with ObscenityCrimes.org, which passes the evidence on to the Justice Department for prosecution.

Complaints are put in the hands of local law enforcement authorities, as U.S. attorneys often are willing to prosecute only people in their own jurisdictions, Trueman said.

One U.S. attorney, when he was shown that 41 people in his district had filed complaints with ObscenityCrimes.org, said he would be willing to prosecute based on the reports, Trueman said.

Sending porn spam is not only a federal crime but also a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act offense, said Patrick McGrath, a spokesman for Morality in Media.

"The key thing is to get the prosecutions going and we see ObscenityCrimes.org as a spur to getting the prosecutions going," he said.

Mixed Results at Justice Department

LaRue said family groups were both disappointed and encouraged by the track record to date of the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Christian conservative.

"We are disappointed that there has yet to be an indictment of a major Internet pornographer, for example," she said. "We are encouraged by some things the Department of Justice is doing, and that is to reassure us that they are looking at some of these websites."

LaRue praised the Justice Department for its sponsorship of two training symposiums on porn prosecution at the National Academy in South Carolina, and for the recent announcement that an individual in Indiana has been indicted for receiving obscenity over the Internet.

Health care professionals teach prosecutors the harms of pornography so that they will be better motivated to see it as a serious social issue, she said.

However, LaRue said she hoped to see some indictments soon: "All it would take is one indictment of a major pornographer. It would send a shockwave through that industry." Ever since President Bush has been sworn in, and especially with Ashcroft's appointment, "it's like they're waiting for the shoe to drop. So are we," she said.

Calls to AT&T, Time-Warner and the Justice Department were not returned. A spokeswoman for MCI Worldcom said the company had no comment on the CWA press conference.

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

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