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Public Statements

Nomination Of Thomas John Perrelli To Be Associate Attorney General

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I would like to make a very brief statement explaining my opposition to the nomination of Thomas Perrelli, to be Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice. Like other DOJ nominees, Mr. Perrelli's past advocacy includes work affecting obscenity. In particular, he signed a brief attacking the Child Protection Restoration and Penalties Enhancement Act of 1990 for ``criminaliz[ing] the production and distribution of `sexually explicit' speech unless the producer and distributor comply with burdensome recordkeeping and labeling requirements.'' The brief was filed on behalf of Penthouse, the American Library Association, and others, whom the brief collectively describes as ``mainstream national media entities.''

To be clear, I recognize and respect that lawyers are entitled to represent any client they choose. I do not believe that arguments advanced on behalf of a client necessarily reflect the lawyer's views. Moreover, I do not believe that examining past advocacy is sufficient or appropriate to ascertain the beliefs of a particular nominee, much less disqualify him. It does, however, invite legitimate questions about what a nominee's personal views are on those same matters.

Therefore, at his hearing, I asked Mr. Perrelli whether he believed that adult obscenity contributed in any way to the exploitation of children. He told me that he had not reviewed the science, so I sent him four studies to review after the hearing, asking him to respond with comments. His response was wholly inadequate. He said:

I have reviewed the two summaries you forwarded, compiled by a social scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, which indicate her view that exposure to extreme forms of pornography can teach behaviors, including the sexual exploitation of children. It appears there is a great deal of literature on the subject, and without a comprehensive examination of the research, I am hesitant to come to any firm conclusions on the science.

Even after reviewing certain studies concluding that there is a connection between pornography and child exploitation, which Mr. Perrelli recognized, the most he could say in response was that he was he needed to review even more science before reaching any conclusions. Because Mr. Perrelli refused to recognize even the possibility of such a connection, or otherwise shed light on his own personal views, I am unsure how he will approach issues of obscenity and exploitation at the Department. Therefore, I am unable to support Mr. Perrelli's nomination.


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