Every year since 1983, Hustler founder Larry Flynt has sent 535 copies of his monthly magazine to Capitol Hill – one edition for each member of Congress.
Only members of the executive branch are exempt from Flynt’s routine mailing list.
The magazine and its array of naked women, vulgar comics and articles ranging on topics from politics to sex, arrives in the mail in a plain manila envelope.
It didn’t take long for Congress members to complain about receiving the adult magazine: they first complained about the mailings in 1984, prompting the U.S. Postal Service to ask the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the mailings.
Two years after the complaint, however, the court ruled that they could not order that the mailing be stopped.
In its decision, the court wrote, “Receiving Hustler once each month would not unduly burden a Member of Congress. Members are not forced to read the magazine or other of the mail they receive in volume.”
“We cannot imagine that Congressional offices all lack wastebaskets,” the court continued.
Flynt saw the printing and sending of the magazine as within his First Amendment rights; the court agreed.
“Moses freed the Jews, Lincoln freed the slaves, and I just wanted to free all the neurotics,” Flynt told The Hill in 2011.
The magazine’s monthly arrival in Congressional offices has been received with just about all imaginable reactions. Some, such as Utah Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, have been outraged.
“It’s insulting behavior on the part of the publisher, but not surprising,” Matheson said in 2006.
Others have reacted more lightheartedly. One staffer remembers telling interns to save every copy of Hustler the office received.
“We eventually gave a coworker the whole year’s supply for Secret Santa and then she would mail them to her boyfriend in Iraq. Certainly one of the least-heralded ways the office supported our troops,” the anonymous staffer explained.
“I ‘forget’ to mention it to interns and wait to watch the look of horror on their face when they open it in a congressional office,” said another worker, who also remained anonymous.
Most of the time, however, the magazine simply ends up in the trash, a fact that comes as no surprise to the people behind Hustler.
As Arthur Sando, a Hustler spokesman, said, “We assume, at this point, that staff members are either reading it or tossing it.”