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Utah lawmakers began receiving unwanted copies of Hustler magazine's latest issue this week, an attempt by the periodical's eccentric founder to push back against a Legislature-approved resolution calling pornography a "public health crisis."
Larry Flynt, the magazine's founder, said in April that he would send copies of his flagship publication to lawmakers in an attempt to show that porn does not pose a risk to the public. Copies of the wrapped magazine began arriving Monday and, in many cases, going straight in the trash can.
"I'm not sure what it's designed to accomplish, other than it probably helps my efforts more than it hurts them," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who sponsored the anti-porn resolution and is working on other bills targeting smut. "I do think it will rile up some of my colleagues, and not in the way Larry Flynt is hoping."
Evan Roosevelt, spokesman for the Flynt Management Group, said it was designed to send a message to lawmakers that magazines such as Hustler are not dangerous.
"Utah, in our eyes and [Flynt's] eyes, is only dragging this out to satisfy religious zealots in the state, so we wanted to remind everyone that this is not a crisis, but a political opportunity for legislators," Roosevelt said.
Not surprisingly, several conservative lawmakers appear unswayed by Flynt's message or his gift.
"I got a package that I put in the garbage here. I haven't opened it," said Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, of the wrapped package he received from LFP Publishing. "I think it's a pretty ineffective method of convincing us that we made the wrong choice on our vote. If anything, it makes me realize how desperate they are in trying to protect their turf."
Others were irritated that the magazines came addressed to lawmakers' homes, where they could fall into the hands of children.
"It's highly inappropriate to send to our homes where our families and kids can see it," said Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi.
Roosevelt said he was "surprised to hear that any of those had gone to home addresses," noting the publisher sent the magazines to the addresses that lawmakers listed as their official mailing address on the state's website.
"Our intention was not to send it to anybody's home," he said, "but rather to send it to their office."
For nearly two decades, Flynt has been sending copies of his magazine to every member of Congress, the president, vice president and U.S. Supreme Court justices. In April, he said his goal was to point out that a 1969 report by President Lyndon Johnson's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography found no evidence that explicit materials cause criminal behavior.
But Utah lawmakers overwhelmingly passed Weiler's Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 last session. The resolution declares that the state recognizes broad societal problems caused by pornography and declares it a public health crisis warranting study and education. The bill did not enact any legal measures to prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.
Weiler plans to sponsor legislation in the legislative session beginning next year that would make it easier for parents to install filters on their children's cellphones and other devices. He isn't sure yet how the legislation would work and hopes to hammer out details during the next several months.
"We get mailed a lot of stuff as legislators. I never fathomed how much unsolicited 'Utah truckers' magazines and everything else we get sent because we're members of the Legislature in addition to Warren Jeffs' revelations," Weiler said, referring to the volumes of writings that the imprisoned polygamist leader regularly sends to state officials. "But this is probably a first."