GOP sets anti-porn focus in a city full of strip clubs

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TAMPA, Fla. — As Republicans flocked south for their convention in a city notorious for an abundance of “gentlemen’s clubs,” the GOP was set to adopt language in its official platform calling for strict enforcement of federal obscenity laws, including those concerning illegal distribution of pornography on the Internet, motel and cable TV and even retail stores.

The platform revises language from the party’s 2008 document, which opposed child pornography and exploitation, to make an even stronger statement on all pornography: “Current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity need to be vigorously enforced.”

Patrick A. Trueman, president of the anti-obscenity advocacy group Morality in Media, said it was a welcome step forward and credited the work of Family Research Council President Tony Perkins for leading the push. Mr. Perkins, a convention delegate from Louisiana and head of one of the most prominent faith-based organizations in the country, introduced the language.

“Federal obscenity laws say that if you distribute hard-core pornography by interstate commerce, you violate federal law,” said Mr. Trueman, former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at the U.S. Department of Justice during the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “Congress was getting upset that kids were going online and getting free porn. All of that can be prosecuted.”

The technology blog ExtremeTech released a report earlier this year estimating that porn makes up 30 percent of data transferred across the Internet and that XVideos, the world’s largest pornography site, attracts 4.4 billion page views per month.

According to Enough Is Enough, a group that works to protect children online, pornography is a $13 billion industry in the United States, and Internet porn is a $3 billion industry. Every second, $3,075.64 is being spent on porn, 28,258 Internet users are viewing porn, and 372 Internet users are typing “adult search terms” into search engines, the group said.

Interestingly, the party is set to approve the language in a city that a 2006 study from the Tampa Bay Partnership ranked third in the country in “adult entertainment establishments per capita,” trailing only Las Vegas and Cincinnati.

Earlier this year, during a debate on a gambling bill, State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff attempted to quash the notion that gambling would tarnish Florida’s reputation as a family-friendly destination, declaring that “we have the strip club capital of the world in Tampa.”

“I hate to say it loud, but we do,” she said. “We have not ruined our family-friendly image.”

While PolitiFact rated her claim “false,” pointing to other strip-club hotbeds such as Las Vegas, Miami, and New York, Ms. Bogdanoff’s point was made.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand that Tampa is one of the worst cities for strip clubs and, I would suggest, sexual trafficking,” Mr. Trueman said. “I don’t know why they picked Tampa, and certainly the issue of pornography plays right into sexual trafficking.”

A party official, though, said that had nothing to do with the selection.

“We’re holding the convention in Tampa because it’s a great city in an important battleground state,”said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

The new platform language conforms with a pledge presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney made earlier this year when he said it was “imperative” to “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 at the time. “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.”

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