Directing Senate Legal Counsel to Bring a Civil Actionby Senator Kelly Ayotte
Posted on 2016-03-17
AYOTTE. Mr. President, I thank Senator Portman and Senator
McCaskill for their strong leadership on the Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations, of which they are the chair and ranking member, on such
an important issue because enforcing the subpoena--the resolution we
have before us to enforce the subpoena is critical.
As you heard today, I was attorney general of New Hampshire. I had the opportunity to work with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that of suspected child trafficking reports it receives from the public, 71 percent involve backpage.com.
What is the resolution about? It is about the fact that Senator Portman, Senator McCaskill, and the committee they lead has asked legitimate questions and asked for documents from backpage.com.
We have heard the horrific stories of things that have happened and have been reported. Senator Portman referenced a recent report in Boston about a 15-year-old girl who had been raped over 1,000 times as a result of being advertised on backpage.com.
Of course, we have heard horrific stories about children. In one Pennsylvania case, a defendant forced a minor to have sex with approximately 15 different men in one encounter where she was threatened with a weapon--advertised on backpage.com, so it is pretty straightforward.
In a Florida case, a trafficker drugged and threatened to kill a 14- year-old girl so he could sell her for sexual services online-- backpage.com.
In a California case, a trafficker forced two women to work as prostitutes through beating and threatening them with sexual violence-- backpage.com.
These are very legitimate questions that have been asked to inform our policy decisions of backpage.com. Yet they will not produce the documents that have been asked of them, to ask how they were screening to ensure they aren't taking illegal actions when it comes to child sex trafficking and trafficking of women and men and boys and girls. Yet they will not answer that. The CEO of backpage.com was subpoenaed to testify, and he refused to appear here.
If backpage.com is not doing the things in some of these reports that have come forward and is not acting illegally, then they will come and talk to us about this. The CEO of backpage would not try to hide behind the First Amendment, making arguments that don't bear out under the First Amendment because we are talking about illegality, the trafficking of children in horrific ways--then this is a legitimate inquiry for this committee.
I again commend Senator Portman and Senator McCaskill.
I urge the Members of the Senate to support this resolution to enforce this subpoena so we can ensure that we get the information this committee needs to inform our policy decisions to address a very important issue that is putting children at risk, that is harming families, that is harming men and women who are being trafficked, and we need to get to the bottom of it.
I yield the floor back to Senator Portman.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.