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
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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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