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GOP Corporate Donors Cash In on Smut

"AT&T Corporation, the nation's biggest communications company, offers a hard-core sex channel called the Hot Network to subscribers to its broadband cable service. It also owns a company that sells sex videos to nearly a million hotel rooms. Nearly one in five of AT&T's broadband cable customers pay an average of $10 a film to see what the distributor calls 'real, live all-American sex -- not simulated by actors.'"

Egan's story is a bit dated -- corporate sell-offs and restructuring have changed ownership of some of the companies on which he reported -- but there's no evidence of a seismic shift in the adult entertainment industry during the intervening years.

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For instance, Ruport Murdoch, the controlling owner of News Corp. -- which owns both the conservative Fox News and the popular and frequently salacious Fox TV -- continues to cash in. On one hand, Fox News employs commentators who promote the connection between Republicans and family values while other divisions of the company profit from sexually explicit content.

In fact, Murdoch's Fox TV network is fighting a record-setting FCC indecency fine for an episode of the now-canceled "Married by America" (which featured whipped-cream-covered strippers at a bachelor party and digitally obscured nudity) by arguing that the government should not even be in the business of regulating decency on the public airwaves.

"Indeed, the massive expansion of cable and satellite video programming, together with the advent of the Internet, renders obsolete the second-class treatment of broadcasters under the First Amendment," the Fox FCC filing reads. "These technological and marketplace changes make clear that regulation of indecency, which the commission itself recognizes is constitutionally protected speech, cannot possibly survive strict scrutiny review."

Last year, Murdoch won controlling interest in DirectTV from GM.

Of course pornography isn't the primary source of income for News Corp. or any of the other companies mentioned here. But it is a growing source. Multichannel News, an industry wag, wrote in June that adult entertainment revenue on cable had grown from $263 million in 1998 to $609 million in 2002, the latest year for which figures were available. Other articles on MSN, Insight on the News and Beliefnet provide more information on the industry's growth.

No one argues that the vast sums of money that flow into the Republican Party are based primarily on the self-interest of protecting the ability to profit from that sort of material. But money made off of pornography is finding its way into the Republican Party via very wealthy donors.

The lodging and tourism industry -- like most major industries, with a few exceptions such as entertainment and law -- has given a majority of its money to the GOP since 1990. Other than a few exceptions such as Hyatt Corp, most of the large hotel chains give predominantly to Republicans.

Since 2000, Murdoch and family members (all executives or shareholders of the News Corp., Rupert's parent company) have contributed at least $100,000 of their personal money to the Republican Party, its candidates and right-leaning political action committees, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

(To be fair, the News Corp. has given only a little more than half of its $61,000 in corporate contributions to Republicans since 2000.)

Executives and officials at EchoStar have given prodigiously as well, but the company has spread its money around between the parties, with a heavy focus on contributions to congressional regulators of its industry.

Since 1994, General Motors Corp. has given all of its $53,850 in political contributions to the Republican Party.

This figure does not include the millions more spent by GM affiliates and subsidiaries since the early 1990s, including Hughes Electronics (the former parent of DirecTV), which has given 61 percent of its $878,259 contributed since 1990 to the GOP and its candidates. (See also: Automotive industry's top contributors to federal candidates and parties)

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