Why Every Member of Congress Gets a Monthly Porn Delivery

Larry Flynt has sent a monthly copy of Hustler to every congressional office for the last 30 years, and members of Congress can’t stop it.

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
April 17, 2014, 1 a.m.

Con­gres­sion­al of­fices have a porn prob­lem, but it’s not ex­actly what you think.

Since 1983, Larry Flynt has sent the monthly magazine he foun­ded, Hust­ler, to each and every mem­ber of Con­gress.

The dirty mag comes in a plain ma­nila en­vel­ope, fairly un­detect­able to the poor in­tern or staffer tasked with open­ing the mail. And every month, there it is: Hust­ler, fea­tur­ing dozens of na­ked or scantly dressed wo­men, vul­gar com­ics, and art­icles, some satir­ic­al, on polit­ics, so­ci­ety, and sex.

It’s not like mem­bers of Con­gress haven’t tried to stop the magazines from com­ing. They just can’t stop it leg­ally.

Fol­low­ing the com­plaints from 264 con­gres­sion­al of­fices in 1984, the U.S. Postal Ser­vice asked the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia to block the mail­ings. But that re­quest failed when the court ruled two years later that the de­liv­ery of the magazine could not be stopped. The court wrote:

Re­ceiv­ing Hust­ler once each month would not un­duly bur­den a Mem­ber of Con­gress. Mem­bers are not forced to read the magazine or oth­er of the mail they re­ceive in volume. We can­not ima­gine that Con­gres­sion­al of­fices all lack wastebas­kets.

For Hust­ler, it was a First Amend­ment is­sue. This was Flynt’s right to pe­ti­tion the gov­ern­ment, he ar­gued, and the court agreed. Or as Flynt told The Hill in 2011, “Moses freed the Jews, Lin­coln freed the slaves, and I just wanted to free all the neur­ot­ics.”

Thirty years later, the con­gres­sion­al sub­scrip­tion count re­mains the same: 535. The magazine is not sent to mem­bers of the ex­ec­ut­ive branch, though.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress have made their ob­jec­tions to re­ceiv­ing the magazine pub­lic. “It’s in­sult­ing be­ha­vi­or on the part of the pub­lish­er, but not sur­pris­ing,” said Rep. Jim Math­eson, a Utah Demo­crat, in 2006.

For the most part, however, re­ceiv­ing the magazine is just a part of every­day life in con­gres­sion­al of­fices.

Some staffers say it has be­come a light­hearted way for them to have a little fun — and not just by read­ing it. Most of the time the magazine ends up in the trash. But take these five ex­amples from staffers (quotes are ed­ited to pre­serve an­onym­ity):

I let in­terns know they will re­ceive an in­ter­est­ing magazine and they should just throw it away.

I “for­get” to men­tion it to in­terns and wait to watch the look of hor­ror on their face when they open it in a con­gres­sion­al of­fice.

I have a friend that I asked one day if he liked to read. He said, “Sure, I read a bit.” Since then, I have sent him every ran­dom book our of­fice has re­ceived, in­clud­ing a couple Hust­lers for some re­fresh­ing ma­ter­i­al. He still has no idea it’s me.

For a while, the in­terns, after their ini­tial shock and be­fuddle­ment, were dir­ec­ted to save the Hust­lers. We even­tu­ally gave a cowork­er the whole year’s sup­ply for Secret Santa and then she would mail them to her boy­friend in Ir­aq. Cer­tainly one of the least-her­al­ded ways the of­fice sup­por­ted our troops.

Some bud­dies and I col­lec­ted them for sev­er­al months, and then sent them all to the same friend in one day. The re­cip­i­ent worked in the back of­fice, so they’d be de­livered to him from that of­fice’s staff as­sist­ant in piles as the mail came in.

And the folks at Hust­ler are fully aware that the magazine is treated this way. As Ar­thur Sando, a spokes­man for the Beverly Hills, Cal­if.-based magazine, put it to me, “We as­sume, at this point, that staff mem­bers are either read­ing it or toss­ing it.”

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