Porn Stars and Super PACs

Well, it appears that there is dirty money. And really dirty money. Yet it looks like we are generally OK with the money funneled through Super PACs that influence elections. But money coming from a former porn star aimed at helping children read — well, that’s a different matter.

I expect the Super PAC most people are familiar with is the one organized by Stephen Colbert that demonstrated if nothing else what a fiasco we now have involving campaign financing. Of course, when it comes to the millions Super PACs can raise, few are laughing. Not even Prez O, who said this week that he is now OK with the notion of a Super PAC even though he once called them “a threat to our democracy.”

Here’s from a NYT editorial, “Another 2012 Campaign for Sale“:

Two years ago, while delivering his State of the Union address, President Obama looked the Supreme Court justices in the face and told them they were wrong to have allowed special interests to spend without limits on campaigns. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests,” he said. “They should be decided by the American people.”

On Monday, the president abandoned that fundamental principle and gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a “threat to our democracy.”

His aides announced that the Obama campaign would begin to assist the “super PAC” that can raise and spend unlimited sums to support the president’s re-election effort. Even White House and cabinet officials are expected to appear at fund-raising events for Priorities USA Action.

The announcement fully implicates the president, his campaign and his administration in the pollution of the political system unleashed by Citizens United and related court decisions. Corporations, unions and wealthy individuals are already writing huge checks — with no restrictions — to political action committees supporting individual candidates, which have become bag men for campaigns that still nominally operate under federal limits.

As misguided as it was, the Citizens United decision naïvely believed that the super PACs would remain separate from individual campaigns. The White House’s decision to allow insiders like Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, and Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, to speak at Priorities USA Action events shows how ludicrous that notion has become, raising questions about whether the law is being violated.

Up to now, Republicans have been the main defenders of this corrupt system, and the main beneficiaries of it. Two of Karl Rove’s political groups raised $51 million last year to use against Mr. Obama and other Democrats, and the Republican presidential candidates’ PACs have raised $40 million.

Priorities USA Action and other Democratic groups have raised only $19 million. And, as Mr. Messina wrote on the Obama campaign’s blog, “with so much at stake” Democrats decided that they would not “unilaterally disarm.”

Wonder what Colbert thinks? LOL. I digress.

Yet here comes Sasha Grey. At a time when unlimited and unchecked amounts of cash can swing elections — and maybe buy the White House — Sasha Grey, the retired porn star, wants to donate the proceeds from her final flick to the National Education Association’s Read Across America program.

Nope.

Here’s from The Huffington Post, “Sasha Grey Filmmaker To Donate ‘Anal Artists’ Proceeds to Read Across America, NEA Declines“:

Talk about dirty money. American schools and educational programs might be drowning from lack of funding, but being deep in the red isn’t deterring one group from publicly rejecting money tied to a pornographic film star.

Former adult film star Sasha Grey made education headlines last November when she was a celebrity guest reader at Emerson Elementary School in Compton, Calif. Now Grey’s name is back: Although she retired from the porn industry last April, one of Grey’s scenes is featured in adult film “Anal Artists,” set to debut this week by Assence Films. In support of her “recent efforts to expose children to the world of literature,” Assence Films will donate a portion of the film’s proceeds to the National Education Association’s Read Across America program, according to XBiz Newswire.

But in a statement Monday to The Huffington Post, NEA officials said “no, thanks.”

“Sasha Grey is not affiliated with the National Education Association’s Read Across America program nor has she been invited or endorsed by NEA to read at any of the association’s Read Across America Day events, and NEA will not accept any proceeds from her latest, or any of her films,” the statement reads. The NEA is the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

Howard Levine of Exile Distribution, the company charged with releasing “Anal Artists,” told HuffPost that the NEA’s disapproval of Grey’s background is discriminatory.

“Anyone that’s supporting reading and helping kids and donating money to their cause should be accepted. I don’t understand why they would not accept that — only the fact she was in adult films,” Levine said. “I understand their position — they don’t want to be associated with any adult film stars. I think that everybody has a slanted opinion on what the adult film community is so I know that they’re trying to be politically correct.”

Assence’s decision to donate proceeds in support of Grey was also made without her knowledge, said a source close to the actress.

Grey’s November appearance at Emerson Elementary sparked great controversy when she read to first- and third-grade students as a part of the the school’s Guest Reading Program. Her participation was also widely characterized as being part of the Read Across America program, including by Grey herself.

But the NEA has asserted that the organization neither knew about nor endorsed the event, clarifying that the Compton Unified School District’s Guest Reading Program is not associated with the NEA’s Read Across America initiative.

Parents were outraged that the school brought a porn star into classrooms, but district officials said they were unaware of her adult film past — an outside talent coordinator only listed Grey as an actress who had appeared in the HBO show “Entourage.”

Grey stood her ground in response to public outcry, issuing a Twitter statement Nov. 11 saying that “education is a universal right.”

“Promoting education is an effort that is close to my heart. Illiteracy contributes to poverty; encouraging children to pick up a book is fundamental,” Grey wrote. “I committed to this program with the understanding that people who have their own opinions about what I have done, who I am and what I represent. … I have a past that some people may not agree with, but it does not define who I am.”

In the Tweet, Grey notes that she would continue to support education and partake in education-focused initiatives. She also thanked her fans and Read Across America for supporting her decision, but NEA officials aren’t really sure why.

“At no time has NEA sent letters or messages of support (or otherwise) or any other communications to Ms. Grey,” according to an NEA statement Monday.

OK. I get why the NEA doesn’t want to get involved in this from a public relations and perception perspective. Hey. Cause marketing sometimes backfires. Ask the Komen Foundation.

Yet I wonder if the NEA would be willing to get into bed with Sasha Grey if she were running for president?

Just askin’.

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