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John M.
Republican AZ

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  • Directing Senate Legal Counsel to Bring a Civil Action

    by Senator John McCain

    Posted on 2016-03-17

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    McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.



    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to support S. Res. 377, a resolution to enforce a subpoena of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations against backpage.com and Carl Ferrer, the company's chief executive officer. This action comes as part of the subcommittee's ongoing investigation into the sex trafficking of minors and the unfortunate and increasing role of the Internet in facilitating this horrific crime.

    Before I go much further, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the chairman. Senator Portman has been tenacious. He is committed. He is forcing us as a body to address an issue that is so unpleasant that many times we shy away from it because we would rather talk about more pleasant subjects and issues that are less emotional. But it is what is happening in America and in the world, and thanks to the leadership of Senator Portman, it is being addressed in a forthright manner that alerts all of us and, indeed, alerts the world. I very much appreciate the great work he has done on this issue. I know he remains committed for as long as he is a Member of this body, and we are incredibly grateful for his friendship and his leadership.

    This marks the first time in 20 years that the Senate has been required to enforce a subpoena in court. I have been in Congress for a long time, and I have never seen anything quite like it. As part of the subcommittee's fair and deliberative investigation into human trafficking and child exploitation on the Internet, we have encountered a company that, instead of doing everything in its power to assist in protecting the most vulnerable in our society, has decided to focus its energies on stonewalling congressional efforts to do so.

    Let me be clear. As is always the case in this unsavory underside of society, it is about money. Backpage.com is the market leader in commercial sex advertising. It was valued at over $600 million in 2015, with over $130 million in annual revenue, and their business model is dependent on the revenue generated from this part of its Web site.

    [[Page S1566]] Backpage claims to be a leading partner in the fight to combat child sex trafficking by screening advertisements for evidence of trafficking and taking deliberate steps from preventing illegal activity from appearing on its Web site. But the company has refused to produce documents that could verify this claim, and the facts gathered by the subcommittee from other sources indicate this is not the case.

    As Senator Portman has indicated, backpage has been linked to hundreds of human trafficking cases, including those of children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has gathered data that indicates that the vast majority of suspected child trafficking reports it receives from the public include postings made on backpage. Identifying what screening procedures are in place and the effectiveness of these efforts in curbing trafficking are an important part of this investigation.

    Thanks to the leadership from the Senator from Ohio, it is hard to think of a more worthy use of the Senate's investigative authority than examining the methods used to facilitate the buying and selling of children for sexual exploitation. This investigation is designed to guide Congress as we consider ways to combat human trafficking and identify what can be done to protect children and eliminate this crime. Enforcement of this subpoena is necessary to accomplish that goal and to protect the prerogative of the Senate to investigate matters of consequence to our national interest. I appreciate Senators Portman and McCaskill's truly bipartisan efforts to investigate matters of consequence to our national interest. I appreciate their efforts to shed light on this difficult issue, and I appreciate their commitment to defending the Senate's role in addressing it.

    I hope and believe that vote will be 100 to 0, as we strongly support Chairman Portman's right to obtain the information he believes is necessary to the subcommittee's investigation concerning human trafficking. I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important resolution.

    I know that my friend and colleague Senator Portman knows that one of the areas where human trafficking is most intense are those States that are on the border, and our southern border is obviously penetrated regularly by these human traffickers. I would like, as a representative of the people of my State of Arizona, where this issue is of particular importance, to thank Senator Portman and Senator McCaskill for their unending worthy and important efforts on this issue.

    By passing this legislation, we will send a message to others. We will send a message to others, I say to my colleague from Ohio, that they can run but they can't hide.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.

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