Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer


Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

GOP Candidates Promise to Revive War on Porn

Oh thank God. Three of the leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have come out strong—against porn.

The nation's men may be suffering from high rates of unemployment, but Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have pledged to ensure that those men aren't spending their involuntary down time surfing the web for smut. All three have pledged that if elected, they will revive intensive federal prosecutorial efforts to enforce the nation's obscenity laws.

The nonprofit Morality in Media has been hounding GOP candidates since October to go on the record with their positions on porn, in part because the group and its allies in the evangelical community are deeply unhappy with the Obama administration on this front. They believe that Obama has abandoned the nation's women to exploitation and even trafficking by disbanding a Justice Department obscenity task force and failing to initiate a single new obscenity prosecution since Obama was inaugurated. MIM didn't have to work hard, it seems, to get a couple of GOP candidates to go on the record against all things X-rated (especially the leading prude of the field, Santorum). After all, what candidate is going to run on a pro-porn platform?

But enforcing obscenity laws is a lot harder than the MIM pledge makes it sound. For all the fury the group has leveled at the Obama administration for failing to go after pornographers, it has also failed to acknowledge that many of the obscenity prosecutions begun during the last Bush administration were a huge bust. Obscenity prosecutions tend to create thorny First Amendment problems that prosecutors would generally rather avoid. Meanwhile, MIM hasn't noted the hypocrisy rooted in Gingrich's promise to enforce obscenity laws. The former House speaker is partly responsible for enabling the explosion of online porn, thanks to his successful opposition to a 1995 Internet censorship law introduced in Congress.

Nonetheless, Patrick Trueman, the president of MIM and the former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at DOJ during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, issued a statement congratulating the GOP candidates for taking a stand. "Vigorous prosecution of those who violate our nation's obscenity laws is critical now," Trueman said. "Our nation is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography that is readily available—even to children on the Internet and in other venues. Addiction among adults and even children is now widespread. Pornography is a common cause of the destruction of marriage. It leads to misogyny and violence against women and is a contributing factor in sexual trafficking."

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