Proposed State Laws Throw Road Blocks in Front of NSA Surveillance Efforts

January 8, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

Several states (or at least a handful of state lawmakers) have decided to fight against the federal government's surveillance activities in their own way. In California, two state senators have introduced a bill in Sacramento that would forbid state agencies from cooperating with the National Security Agency to collect "any electronic data or metadata... not based on a warrant." The bill sponsored by state senators Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Joel Anderson (R-San Diego), is the first state-level proposal to compel non-cooperation with the federal agency.

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Failed Politician Rips Utah AG for Backing Game Industry

September 28, 2010 -

The decision by Utah Attorney-General Mark Shurtleff to support the game industry side of Schwarzenegger vs. EMA has made him a target in the Beehive State.

The latest person to bash Shurtleff is the failed politician, and Utah’s “common sense conservative” Cherilyn Eagar. Eagar, who was running for Senator in the state as a Republican—and against Shurtleff, before he withdrew from the race—but did not make the final run-off, took to her blog to bash Shurtleff’s decision to oppose the California law.

In the article, entitled “Children Must be Protected from Video Games,” Eagar writes that Shurtleff’s rationale in backing of the game industry could be adapted in order to “logically argue that it is free speech to allow minors to purchase cigarettes or drugs.”

Another Eagle Forum Member Makes Case Against Violent Games

September 27, 2010 -

Over the past month, the “pro-family” Eagle Forum attempted (and failed) to lobby Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff into supporting the California side of Schwarzenegger v. EMA, while its founder, Phyllis Schlafly, scribbled out a withering column on the “evil products” and “highly disturbing”  content emerging from the videogame industry. Now another Eagle Forum member is attempting to pin the group’s anti-videogame stance on protecting children.

Op-Ed Praises Utah AG’s Supreme Decision

September 22, 2010 -

The courting of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (pictured) by both sides in the Schwarzenegger vs. EMA  U.S. Supreme Court case ended with him signing onto an amicus brief supporting the game industry, where he was joined by fellow attorneys general from Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Washington.

A disjointed op-ed in Utah’s Standard-Examiner praised Shurtleff’s decision, yet still managed to take some pot shots at the game industry.

Shurtleff stated that he backed the game industry because he was “convinced” that the First Amendment protects games, a point agreed with in the op-ed:

Is it right for the government to freeze speech -- in this case the video games -- because some people are offended by the violence? The answer is no.

Eagle Forum Founder Blast Videogames

September 9, 2010 -

Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the “pro-family” Eagle Forum has authored a column in which she takes a hatchet to videogames, while attempting to outline the fight by both sides in the Schwarzenegger vs EMA case to rally state attorneys general to their respective squads.

A few of the descriptors used by Schlafly to portray videogames in her piece include: “extremely violent and addictive,” “polluting,” “increasingly realistic bloodshed,” “highly disturbing,” “heinous acts of terrorism” and “evil products.”

In case you hadn’t guessed it yet, Schlafly is not a huge fan of games. A sampling of her more inane arguments against videogames follow:

Some games are programmed to become more violent while the game is being played, and parents usually don't or can't play the games.

Researcher Ferguson Urges Utah AG to Side with Game Industry

September 7, 2010 -

As Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff continues to decide whether to throw his state’s support behind an amicus brief opposing California’s violent videogame bill at the heart of Schwarzenegger vs EMA, Texas A&M International Associate Professor Christopher J Ferguson sent a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune urging Shurtleff to join the game industry’s side.

Ferguson, best known around these parts for his videogame research, outlined three reasons why Shurtleff should oppose the California bill:

Utah Paper Against Possible AG Support of Game Industry

August 31, 2010 -

An editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune calls Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s decision to possibly support the videogame industry in the upcoming Schwarzenegger v. EMA SCOTUS case “baffling.”

It appears the paper has sided with pro-life groups and a handful of politicians in condemning Shurtleff (pictured) for a decision he hasn’t even made yet. Titled, “Let it Go,” the editorial stopped just short of labeling Shurtleff a hypocrite, saying instead that opposing the California law was ironic for someone representing a state “that trumpets its devotion to family values.”

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Pro-Family Groups Trying to Sway Utah AG’s Schwarzenegger Stance

August 25, 2010 -

As Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff considers submitting an amicus brief that would support the videogame industry side in the Schwarzenegger v. EMA Supreme Court case, "pro-family" groups and other legislators from his state held a press conference to try and get him to change his mind.

Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Laura Bunker (pictured), Chairwoman of United Families Utah and State Representatives Jim Dunnigan (R) and Julie Fisher (R) all gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday, according to a story in the Deseret News.

Bunker stated, “As the most family-oriented state in the nation, Utah should support this law that promotes the protection of children.”

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Utah Might be on Game Industry Side in Schwarzenegger Case

August 19, 2010 -

As each side in the Schwarzenegger v. EMA case attempts to lure state attorney generals to sign on to their respective amicus briefs, Common Sense Media Chief James Steyer is turning up the pressure on one particular person.

The LA Times features an excerpt from a letter by Steyer to Utah Attorney General, and a one-time target of a certain disbarred attorney, Mark Shurtleff (pictured). While Shurtleff might seem like a natural to sign on to a brief in favor of the California law—he argued for a ban of the game 25 to Life in 2005—he has also demonstrated considerable backbone, once challenging a proposed Utah law introduced by a now disbarred attorney as unconstitutional.

EA Urges Utah to offer Game Industry Tax Breaks

July 22, 2010 -

On Wednesday, surrounded by Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert and other state and local officials, Electronic Arts executives had a "grand opening" of its offices in Salt Lake City to much applause. The office has actually been running in Salt Lake for three months, but this grand celebration allowed the public to get a look inside EA's new operation. The 20,000-square-foot office serves as a base to develop and manufacture games featuring pet and Nerf guns toys for children and families as part of an agreement it signed with Hasbro.

But after the ceremonial "grand opening," EA took the opportunity to strongly urge Utah lawmakers to give the videogame industry more tax incentives on par with what it currently gives the film industry. EA government affairs director Craig Hagan led the charge, saying that in other parts of the country, like Texas and Florida, and in Canada's Vancouver and British Columbia, governments are offering rebates on corporate income taxes of up to 42 percent to companies like EA.

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Study: Game Playing Improves Visual Awareness

April 13, 2010 -

A psychology student at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah recently conducted a study of gamers which showed that playing games helped to increase their visual response and alertness.

Christian Peterson, a senior at the school, put 50 students through Halo 3 sessions that ran 20, 40 or 60 minutes, reports the Deseret News. The participants had already taken a visual-responsiveness test before their gaming session, and were asked to take it again post-Halo 3.

Peterson reported on the results, “We found a great increase in ability to spot changes in visual field after playing the video game.” Visual response and alertness also “increased significantly” when comparing pre and post-game visual test results. The length of time spent playing Halo 3 appeared to have no effect on visual test results.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch Calls Pirate Bay Case a Win, Slams Canada Over Copyright Issues

June 11, 2009 -

Influential Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) referred to a Swedish court's recent conviction of the operators of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay as "important" and a "victory." He also reiterated Congressional claims that Canada is a leading copyright violator and pointed with pride to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which he helped pass more than a decade ago.

Hatch, who has served in the Senate for 32 years, made the remarks while addressing the World Copyright Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Utah Senator co-chairs the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC):

For years, countries like China and Russia have been viewed as providing the least hospitable environments for the protection of intellectual property. But this year, it was particularly disappointing to see that Canada, one of America’s closest trading partners, was listed on the Watch List. This is another sobering reminder of how pervasive and how close to our borders copyright piracy has become in the global IP community...

 

Appallingly, many believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free. I have heard some estimates cite no less than 80 percent of all Internet traffic comprises copyright-infringing files on peer-to-peer networks.

That is why the Pirate Bay case is so important. While the decision does not solve the problem of piracy and unauthorized file sharing, it certainly is a legal victory and one that sends a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. We can and must do more...

 

When we passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, one of my goals was to address the problems caused when copyrighted works are disseminated through the Internet and other electronic transmissions without the authority of the copyright owner.

By establishing clear rules of the road, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act served as the catalyst that has allowed electronic commerce to flourish. I believe the DMCA, while not perfect, has nonetheless played a key role in moving our nation’s copyright law into the digital age...

The Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group for IP rights holders (the ESA is a member), applauded Hatch's remarks:

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) once again was charming, informed, thoughtful and inspiring in his speech. Once again he was a passionate supporter of creators and copyright owners, and told the 500 or so international delegates here that he has been, and always would be, their champion...

Hatch, who last won re-election to the Senate in 2006, has been a regular recipient of campaign donations from the IP industry. A quick check of donations by political action committees shows that Hatch received $7,000 from the RIAA (music industry) between 2004-2006 and $12,640 from the MPAA (movie business) between 1998-2006.

IP Watchdog has the full transcript of Hatch's remarks.

Jack Thompson Threatens Entire Utah Legislature with Prosecution

May 26, 2009 -

It has been more than a month since Gov. Jon Huntsman vetoed Jack Thompson's video game bill, but the disbarred attorney continues to wage an e-mail war with various Utah government officials. In his latest and most bizarre salvo, Thompson has threatened to have the entire Utah legislature - all 104 House and Senate members - prosecuted by the F.B.I. for violating his civil rights.

GamePolitics readers will recall that in April State Senate President Michael Waddoups asked Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (another favorite target of Thompson's vitriol) to look into prosecuting Thompson for alleged spam. The Senate President was offended by an Easter morning e-mail from Thompson which included a screenshot of a pair of strippers giving GTA IV protagonist Nico Bellic a lap dance. Last week Thompson wrote to the F.B.I.'s Salt Lake City Field Office seeking the prosecution of Waddoups for supposedly infringing on his right to petition the government.

An e-mail circulated by Thompson on Sunday indicates that a second legislator, Rep. Curtis Oda, apparently took objection to the anti-game activist's messages (we haven't seen Oda's e-mail to Thompson). Thompson responded with his threat to prosecute the Utah legislature:

If I get one more threat of criminal prosecution for sending you all proof, as I have, that pornographic video games are being sold to children in Utah because of the willful refusal of your Attorney General to enforce your state's pornography laws, then I will add ALL of you to the sworn criminal complaint now in the hands of the FBI in Salt Lake City.  You will be identified as co-conspirators to violate 18 USC 241 and 242...

Maybe the real problem here is that Utah, as a recent study proves, leads the nation in consumption of on-line porn.  Maybe some among you are into this stuff, and you feel threatened...

I'm not going to put up with it.  I've taken down some of the largest pornographers in the world.  Taking down your legislature will be a piece of cake by comparison.

GP: This year's near-success marked Thompson's third attempt at game legislation in the Utah legislature. However, following the disbarred attorney's spectacular display of bridge burning following Gov. Huntsman's veto, we don't advise holding your breath waiting for a fourth Thompson appearance in the Beehive State.

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Utah Congressman Says He's Way Better at Halo Than Rock Band

May 7, 2009 -

Perhaps more than any freshman congressman in recent memory, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has a knack for getting his name mentioned by the media.

Here at GamePolitics, we've covered Chaffetz for his Rock Band duet with Stephen Colbert. The Republican Congressman is also an active Twitter user (jasoninthehouse) and just a tad to the right of Attila the Hun. After all, he is from Utah.

But his conservative rants got the best of GP yesterday and we couldn't resist sending him a jab via Twitter:

Will you be doing anything with Rock Band again any time soon? Otherwise I may have to stop following your updates.

Chaffetz is nothing if not a good sport. He quickly followed up with a private tweet and we couldn't help but laugh:

I suck at Rock Band. Best if I stick to Halo.

By the way, Chaffetz isn't kidding about his Rock Band suckitude. Check out that 24% score from the Colbert show appearance. In any case, it's reassuring to know that at least one member of Congress enjoys a round of Halo now and again.

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Utah Bill Sponsor Apologizes to Colleagues for Jack Thompson

April 22, 2009 -

Although anti-game activist Jack Thompson's latest campaign to pass video game legislation in Utah got off to a fast start, it is ending both unsuccessfully and with rancor.

In the latest development, GamePolitics has learned that Rep. Mike Morley (R), the Utah House sponsor of the Thompson-authored HB 353, circulated an e-mail to his legislative colleagues last week in which he apologized for Thompson's behavior.

Morley's apology came in response to the flap caused by an Easter Sunday e-mail sent by Thompson to numerous Utah legislators. The e-mail, which ultimately prompted State Sen. President Michael Waddoups (R) to threaten Thompson with prosecution, depicted GTA IV 's Nico Bellic receiving a lap dance from a pair of strippers. Thompson also included links to videos of graphic GTA IV content.

Here is Morley's e-mail:

Subject: My apologies for Jack Thompson
Dear Fellow House Members:

Over the past few days, I have received three emails from Jack Thompson regarding his concerns about mature video games being sold to minors.  Certainly, I am concerned about the graphic violence and sexuality of some of the mature video games, I am apalled by his use of what I view as pornographic images.  I want to make it clear that I had no previous knowledge of his intention to send the images and I apologize to each of you who received his email and were offended as I was.

Mr. Thompson is a nation [sic] advocate for this cause, but he doesn't speak for me nor do I condone or appreciate his actions nor some his tactics.

Mike Morley

When asked for comment by GamePolitics, Thompson said that he hadn't seen Morley's e-mail and "couldn't care less." Within minutes, however, he fired off an e-mail of his own to Utah largely conservative legislators:

I understand that Mike Morley apologized to you all for the shocking image I sent you of two women in bikinis in a strip club.  Sorry, Utahns, but you can see that on a beach.  To see more explicit material as to what is in the GTA IV game, you had to click on the two links I provided, and that was your choice. I warned you what you would see if  you chose to do so.
 
Mike Morley's apology is ridiculous.  I didn't scandalous [sic] anyone with an image of two clad women.  What is really going on here is that I upset the Republican club that runs Utah, and those in that club are seizing upon this harmless image as a ruse to scold the outsider who unfortunately showed that some in Utah aren't serious about protecting children.  Your Governor isn't serious, and we sure as heck know your AG is not.  Heck, he takes money from the video game industry to say how well the ratings are working... Incredible.
 
The only apology that is owed is by each of you for not insisting upon an override session [of Gov. Huntsman's HB 353 veto]...  Your family values stance is a sham.  

GP: Pictured: Gov. Huntsman, Rep. Morley, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Thompson.

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Following Tumultuous Utah Stint, Jack Thompson Heads to Louisiana

April 16, 2009 -

Perhaps Yogi Berra said it best: It's like deja vu all over again.

On the heels of ugly, public dust-ups with both the Utah Attorney General and the President of the Utah State Senate, Jack Thompson is taking his pursuit of video game legislation to Louisiana.

Again.

On Friday Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) will introduce SB 152. The bill, with the addition of a few bells and whistles, is essentially the same truth in advertising measure that passed the Utah legislature in March, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Last week Thompson circulated a press release indicating that a bill "nearly identical" to his failed Utah legislation would be proposed in Louisiana. While he did not name the sponsor, GamePolitics has learned that it is Sen. Crowe. In the press release, Thompson said that he expects to testify before the Louisiana legislature along with "four experts."

Sen. Crowe is apparently untroubled by the acrimony that marked Thompson's 2006 attempt to legislate video games in Louisiana. At that time a Thompson-authored bill unanimously passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature and was signed into law by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The measure was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, but not before Thompson got into an ugly, public dispute with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office (see: Suddenly Thompson is Feuding With Former Louisiana Allies).

Since Thompson's last chaotic go-round in Louisiana, he was permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for more than two dozen professional misconduct violations. Thompson has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the failed 2006 legislation ultimately cost Louisiana $91,000 in video game industry legal fees, it also provided some typically bombastic Thompson quotes, including: Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer.

For more background on Thompson's earlier Louisiana experience, check out The Circus Comes to Louisiana, a piece I wrote for Joystiq in 2006.

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Jack Thompson Criticized by Utah Senate Website over E-mail Flap

April 15, 2009 -

In our previous story GamePolitics broke the news that Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) threatened to have anti-game activist Jack Thompson prosecuted if Thompson did not stop sending him e-mail.

In a remarkable development, a website run by Utah Senate Republicans has publicly taken Thompson to task over the issue:

Jack Thompson sends a lot of Email.

At 6:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday he sent another Email message to a group of contacts and highlighted a picture that, if not legally pornographic, was certainly offensive.

President Waddoups was on the recipient list. He sent a polite but direct request back to Mr. Thompson:

    OK, I've had enough. Please remove me from your Email list.

Jack Thompson wrote back:

    Sir, did you look at the material being sold to minors in Utah that I sent you?

President Waddoups responded with a second request to be removed:

    Yes, I read them all and I got the picture. No more please.

Well . . . a few days went by with no relief. This morning Michael Waddoups – probably a little bugged - sent a third request to be removed from Thompson's Email list...

    I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list. I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again. If I am not removed I will turn you over to the AG for legal action.

So Jack Thompson issued a press release... Jack Thompson might be right. He might be totally, completely, dead-on right on his video game issue. He might not (smart people can disagree). Either way, this behavior doesn't help his cause.

GP: It's not clear who edits the Utah Senate blog, but there is an offer to post the original e-mails if readers request them.

UPDATE: In order to provide some context to this story, in the comments section I've posted the (NSFW) GTA IV screenshot that apparently pushed Sen. Waddoups over the edge. It's clearly not pornographic although it is racy.

UPDATE 2: The Utah Senate Site has posted the series of e-mails between Sen. Waddoups and Thompson.

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Utah Senate President Wants to Prosecute Jack Thompson Under CAN-SPAM Act

April 14, 2009 -

It seems as though Jack Thompson may have burned his final bridge in Utah - and turned a former political ally into an adversary in the process.

In an e-mail sent out earlier today, Thompson claimed that Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups (R, at left) has threatened to have him prosecuted if the disbarred attorney doesn't stop sending him e-mails.

Waddoups, who presided over the Utah Senate as it overwhelmingly passed Thompson's video game bill last month, apparently became upset by an Easter Sunday e-mail in which Thompson attacked Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

As GamePolitics has reported, the disbarred Florida attorney and the popular Utah A.G. have been trading insults ever since the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. On Sunday Thompson slammed Shurtleff in yet another e-mail which claimed that the A.G. is ignoring the sale of pornography to minors. That's a highly questionable assertion, since in this case Thompson is defining Grand Theft Auto IV as pornography.

To back up his point, Thompson included a screenshot depicting of a pair of strippers giving GTA IV protagonist Nico Bellic a lap dance. Why Waddoups reacted so strongly is not entirely clear, although it is possible that he was offended by the pic. Or perhaps he has grown weary of Thompson's persistent attacks on Gov. Huntsman and A.G. Shurtleff, both fellow Republicans. GamePolitics contacted Waddoups for comment, but the Senate President did not return our call.

In any case, Thompson supplied the text of an e-mail that he says he received from Waddoups earlier today:

I asked you before to remove me from your mailing list.  I supported your bill but because of the harassment will not again.  If I am not removed I will turn you over to the AG for legal action.

In response, Thomson re-sent the lapdance pic to the entire Utah legislature:

If you are offended by seeing this, as was Senate President Waddoups, then know that you should be more offended by the fact that Utah kids can buy the game in which there are repeated sexual encounters like this... 

You will apparently read in the Salt Lake Tribune tomorrow morning that Senator Waddoups has now threatened me with criminal prosecution by Mark Shurtleff for sending him “porn.”...  Mr. Waddoups now threatens me for alerting him to this... I look forward to my criminal prosecution in Utah...

GamePolitics readers may recall that Thompson has a bit of a track record for attaching actual porn - not the GTA virtual variety - to his e-mails. In 2007 a federal court judge and the Florida Supreme Court took him to task for doing so (see Judge Spanks Jack Thompson For Including Gay Porn in Court Filing).

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Waddoups wants to pursue Thompson under federal anti-spam legislation:

Waddoups, on Tuesday, confirmed he would attempt to pursue legal action under the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

While that law carries a punishment of up to $11,000 in fines, it covers "e-mail whose primary advertisement purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service," according to the Federal Trade Commission.

UPDATE 2: Predictably, Thompson has written to the U.S. Attorney in Salt Lake City, urging that Waddoups be prosecuted for violating his civil rights. The letter, which we have also received via e-mail, can be viewed in the comments to the Salt Lake Tribune story.

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Video Game Bill Fuels Conservative Talk Radio in Utah

April 6, 2009 -

Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) may have vetoed HB 353, the Jack Thompson-devised video game bill, but the debate over the bill certainly hasn't ended.

Thompson recently spent two hours bashing the Guv, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the video game industry on the Utah Eagle Forum Radio Show.

A caller gets into a heated argument with Thompson and the program host at about 30 minutes into the second hour. A second caller gets into it with Thompson and the host right at the end of the second hour.

Of note, we didn't hear the word "disbarred" during the two-hour program.

You can catch the program here: Hour 1   Hour 2

HB 353 sponsor Rep. Mike Morley (R) debates the merits of the bill with Sean Bersell, VP of Public Affairs on Inside Utah Politics (fast forward to 28:00).

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, urges an override of Huntsman's veto on yet another episode.

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Report: Override of Utah Guv's Game Bill Unlikely (but still possible)

April 5, 2009 -

An override of HB 353, the video game/movie bill vetoed recently by Gov. Jon Huntsman, seems unlikely, according to Utah's Deseret News.

Citing "legislative sources," the paper reports that a poll of lawmakers indicates that neither the Utah House nor the Senate have the two-thirds majority needed for an override session:

[Bill sponsor] Rep. Mike Morley... said he sent out a letter to his 74 House colleagues refuting some of the "misunderstandings" about his bill detailed in Huntsman's veto letter. Morley says his bill did not have constitutional problems.

Other than that, Morley said he has not tried to contact individual legislators seeking their support for an override session...

Senate President Michael Waddoups... said he believes he could get a two-thirds vote for an override, but if the House couldn't find two-thirds to override a vetoed bill sponsored by a House member (and both were), "we aren't going to go out on a limb if they don't want to do it."

The override deadline expires in May.

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Utah Attorney General to Thompson: Bring it on, Jack

April 1, 2009 -

On Monday GamePolitics reported on disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson's vague threat to "proceed" against Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) if the popular, third-term A.G. didn't immediately take action against major retailers like Best Buy, Target and Wal-mart for alleged sales of Grand Theft Auto IV to minors.

On that score, we should note that no law enforcement official anywhere in the United States has done what Thompson is suggesting Shurtleff do.

The backstory to Thompson's ire seems to stem from Gov. Jon Huntsman's veto last week of HB 353, the video game/movie bill conceived by Thompson. Following the veto, Shurtleff told the Salt Lake Tribune that he had been troubled by concerns about the legality of the bill. Going further back in history, in 2007 Thompson called for Shurtleff's impeachment after the A.G. gave a legal opinion that a measure proposed by Thompson was unconstitutional.

Given the nature of the public attacks on Shurtleff by Thompson (which include referring to the A.G. as "dead meat"), GamePolitics interviewed Attorney General Shurtleff yesterday on the HB 353 fallout:

GP: You’ve come under severe criticism from Jack Thompson in recent days in regard to the video game bill vetoed by Gov. Huntsman last week. Can you comment?

Shurtleff: Well, I just consider the source. I don’t take what Jack Thompson says – give it much credence. This latest demand that I prosecute certain crimes shows me that he knows about as much about criminal law as he does about constitutional law...

GP: Thompson, as you probably know, was given a lifetime disbarment last year by the Florida Supreme Court.

Shurtleff: Right. Yes.

GP: Given that fact, does it seem odd that he was invited to Utah and apparently met with the Lt. Governor and other political forces there to help craft the video game legislation?

Shurtleff: Yes. Absolutely. I do think that’s odd. I also think it’s odd that he received some kind of award from [the] 4th of July celebration in Provo last year. (click 'Read more' below for the rest...)

Jack Thompson Threatens to "Proceed" Against Utah Attorney General

March 30, 2009 -

In the fallout from his latest, apparently unsuccessful attempt to legislate video games in Utah, disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson has issued a vague legal threat to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. The popular Republican is serving his third term as Utah's top law enforcement officer.

On Friday the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Shurtleff had expressed concerns about the legality of HB 353, the Thompson-conceived video game bill which was vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman last week.

Thompson, clearly, was not thrilled with the news. He referred to Shurtleff as "dead meat" in the header of an e-mail forwarded to GamePolitics later on Friday.

A Sunday e-mail from Thompson to Salt Lake Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke (and cc:'d to GP) threatens to "proceed" against Shurtleff if the A.G. doesn't move against major retailers for what Thompson claims is "the distribution of pornography to minors in violation of state law." By way of defining porn, Thompson attached links to strip club and hooker scenes from Grand Theft Auto IV. However, while certainly not intended for younger buyers, GTA IV has not been declared obscene in any U.S. jurisdiction.

Oh, and there's a deadline for Shurtleff to act: 5:00 P.M. today.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, Thompson called for Shurtleff's impeachment in 2007 when the A.G. suggested that a piece of Thompson-authored video game legislation then before the Utah House was unconstitutional.

GamePolitics has requested comment on Thompson's threat from Rep. Mike Morley, the sponsor of HB 353, as well as from Gayle Ruzicka, the politically-powerful Thompson ally who heads the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum. We have also asked Shurtleff's office to comment. We'll post any comments that we receive.

UPDATE: Apparently unable to wait for his own 5:00 P.M. deadline, Thompson has written to Utah's Obscenity and Pornography Complaints Ombudsman... Except that the person he addressed his letter to is a law enforcement director in Utah A.G.'s Office. The "porn czar" position was eliminated in 2003 for budgetary reasons - which may be an indication of how serious Thompson is about all of this.

UPDATE 2: Rep. Morley has commented to GamePolitics on Thompson's threat to "proceed" against Shurtleff: "I know nothing about that."

Hit the jump for Thompson's Sunday letter to Shurtleff, the "dead meat" e-mail and the new letter to the porn ombudsman:

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No Decision Yet on Override, Says Utah Video Game Bill Sponsor

March 30, 2009 -

The sponsor of Utah's HB 353 told GamePolitics that he is undecided as to whether he will seek an override of Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman's veto of the controversial measure.

Rep. Mike Morley (R) told us via e-mail:

As far as a potential override, I haven't decided whether or not to pursue that.  We'll see as we get a little further down the road.

Morley (left) also gave his reaction to Huntsman's veto:

I was somewhat surprised by the governor's veto and disappointed that he didn't contact me prior to the veto to discuss the issues.  I believe that his decision was made based on false or misleading information from the gaming industry which constituted nothing more than posturing.  The bill was carefully crafted to provide safe harbor for those retailers who followed their own advertising.

GP: To be fair, the decision on the override is not likely to be Morley's alone; Utah's House and Senate leadership will surely be involved. As GamePolitics reported last week, House Majority Leader Kevin Garn (R) termed an override unlikely, suggesting instead that HB 353 be "retooled" and submitted in the 2010 legislative session.

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Columnist Praises Guv, Spanks Thompson Over Utah Video Game Bill

March 29, 2009 -

In a Saturday column, Salt Lake Tribune political reporter Paul Rolly praises Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) for his recent veto of HB 353, the Jack Thompson-conceived video game/movie bill. Thompson, however, comes in for some heat:

Gov. Jon Huntsman's veto of House Bill 353 underscores the importance of the constitutional checks that can be imposed on the Utah Legislature, whose members often are influenced by ideological extremists or questionable special interest groups.

In this case, while 25 of 29 senators and 67 of 75 representatives voted for the bill that supposedly protected children, it was Huntsman who proved to be the adult, protecting us all from the childlike antics of the legislators and their puppet masters.

In discussing Thompson's involvement with the vetoed legislation, Rolly cites a pair of GamePolitics stories. The first was our February interview with HB 353 sponsor Rep. Mike Morley (R). That interview's bizarre turn of events offered clues as to who wielded the real political clout behind HB 353. Hint: It wasn't Morley:

Thompson teamed up with Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka to push the legislation, a fact that Morley seemed reluctant to admit when he was interviewed by Game Politics, a publication that tracks the video-game industry.

The SL Trib columnist also dug up a 2007 GamePolitics interview with Jack Thompson. At the time Thompson was pushing a different piece of video game legislation in Utah. When Attorney General Mark Shurtleff suggested that the measure was unconstitutional, Thompson called for his impeachment. In the interview, I asked Thompson how such over-the-top verbiage was helpful to his cause. Ever the charmer, he called me a "goofball" and referred to Shurtleff as a "moron."

Thompson's involvement in Utah's legislative process is clearly troubling to Rolly:

This is a guy who is guiding legislation in Utah, the latest example of the influence certain ideologues can have on a Legislature controlled by one political party and too often predisposed to approve legislation, no matter how bad or bizarre, from right-wing zealots.

Pictured: Gov. Huntsman, Rep. Morley, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Jack Thompson

43 comments

Utah Attorney General: We Had Concerns About Jack Thompson Video Game Bill

March 27, 2009 -

The Salt Lake Tribune reports this morning that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) harbored reservations about the legality of HB 353, the video game/movie bill conceived by Jack Thompson.

Trib reporter Robert Gehrke writes:

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff... told me last night that his office had expressed its concerns "with several different iterations of the bill" while it was pending before the Legislature.

"Ultimately, we could probably make an argument to defend it, but we will be sued, it will be costly. If we lose we will pay attorneys fees. Wouldn't you rather spend that money educating people about the rating system?" he asked. "The governor apparently decided it wasn't worth the risk."

There would seem to be little love lost between Shurtleff and Thompson. During the disbarred attorney's previous attempt to legislate games in Utah, he called for Shurtleff's impeachment after the A.G. opined that Thompson's 2007 bill was constitutionally-challenged. The bill was subsequently tabled by the Utah House.

Thompson, who apparently got wind of Shurtleff's comments in advance, disputed the A.G.'s remarks in a harshly-worded e-mail sent last evening:

We told you for weeks that if you had any constitutional concerns, we wanted to provide you any information you wanted in that regard.  I offered repeatedly to meet with you and talk with you, and you ignored my repeated plaintive requests to do so... 

We heard absolutely NOTHING from you as to the bill’s alleged unconstitutionality, and yet now we hear... that you were badmouthing it in that regard, I presume to Gov. Huntsman as well... 

For his part, Shurtleff has been both a critic of violent video games as well as a supporter of the ESRB rating system. In 2005, for example, he urged Utah retailers to boycott Eidos's controversial cops-and-robbers shooter, 25 to Life.

In 2006 Shurtleff made an industry-funded public service announcement in which he urged parents to utilize ESRB ratings. As GamePolitics has reported, Shurtleff received a $3,000 campaign donation from the ESA in May of 2008.

53 comments

Grover Norquist High-Fives Utah Guv Over Video Game Bill Veto

March 26, 2009 -

A nationally-prominent conservative has given props to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) for vetoing HB 353, the video game/movie bill crafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson.

Earlier today, Grover Norquist (left), president of Americans for Tax Reform, forwarded the Guv a congratulatory letter, and GamePolitics has obtained a copy. From Norquist's message to Gov. Huntsman:

In vetoing such a clearly unconstitutional bill you have spared the taxpayers of your state the fate of too many others, picking up the legal tab for those that challenge the bill...

 

Your veto spared not only the legal costs states like the now nearly bankrupt California ($282,794) and Illinois ($545,078), but the harm to retail outlets in these difficult economic times, as well as the interference of parental rights by the state...

 

I know there is a push by well-intentioned groups... to override your veto, but that is a bad idea. Beyond the obvious First Amendment violation this bill presents and the dubious nature of making legally binding voluntary industry ratings, H.B. 353 violates the Dormant Commerce Clause of the Constitution as well...

 

As you know, Americans for Tax Reform opposed passage of H.B. 353 and supported a veto. I thank you for standing up for the taxpayers of Utah in this matter and encourage you to stand strong and fight against attempts to override that veto.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of Norquist's letter to Gov. Huntsman here (pdf).

16 comments

Jack Thompson Lashes Out at Utah Guv Following Game Bill Veto

March 26, 2009 -

Following abortive attempts to bring video game legislation to Utah in 2006 and 2007, Jack Thompson's fortunes in the conservative Western state seemed to be improving this time around.

Despite early confusion as to whether Thompson or bill sponsor Rep. Mike Morley deserved credit for dreaming up HB 353, the bill quickly gathered momentum. The Utah House and Senate passed the measure overwhelmingly and it was known to enjoy the support of Utah power broker - and Thompson ally - Gayle Ruzicka, head of the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum.

Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman pulled the rug out yesterday, however. Huntsman vetoed the bill, citing constitutional concerns and the potential for "unintended consequences."

For his part, Thompson went on the offensive. A letter from the disbarred attorney to the Governor took a harsh tone and threatened even more restrictive legislative action in the future:

You got suckered [by the video game industry]. Further, there is no constitutional, First Amendment problem... 

If your veto is not overridden, then we will be back with a bill to ban the sale of these products altogether, in light of the recent massacres in Germany and in this country directly caused by these murder simulation products that are being copycatted by teens who are being fraudulently sold them.

GP: The threat to ban violent games for players of all ages - including adults - would appear to be highly suspect, in light of the First Amendment. We asked Thompson about that, but he did not respond.

Thompson also circulated public records showing a May, 2006 campaign contribution of $500 from video game publishers' lobbying group the ESA to Huntsman. In an e-mail, Thompson accused the industry of buying Huntsman's veto.

We have verified that the $500 contribution from the ESA was received on behalf of Huntsman's 2004 campaign fund. But for Thompson's assertion to be correct, the ESA would have been prescient, indeed, to forsee - and pay for - a gubernatorial veto three years in advance. One would also have to accept the premise that the Guv could be bought. We asked Thompson about this, but again did not receive a response. 

UPDATE: Some GP readers have requested the Thompson letter to Gov. Huntsman. It follows after the jump.

143 comments | Read more

Utah House Majority Leader: Override of Game Bill Veto Unlikely

March 26, 2009 -

HB 353, the Jack Thompson-conceived video game/movie bill which was vetoed yesterday by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, is unlikely to return - at least in 2009.

The Deseret News reports that Utah House Majority Leader Kevin Garn (R, left) downplayed the likelihood of an override for either HB 353 or a second, non-game-related measure vetoed by Huntsman yesterday.

I don't see a veto override session called for either of these bills. I think the sponsors should retool them and present them next session.

Garn, however, did praise the legislation:

[HB 353] was a fine example of a bill that sends a message to the sellers of these games of violence and nudity — don't sell to minors, especially if you've advertised that you wouldn't.

24 comments

Leading Utah Newspaper Applauds Veto of Jack Thompson Bill

March 26, 2009 -

Terming it "a bullet dodged," the Salt Lake Tribune has lauded Gov. John Huntsman's veto of HB 353 in an editorial.

Although it did not mention the disbarred Miami attorney, the editorial was unsparing in its criticism of the Jack Thompson-conceived bill:

Somehow, this misguided piece of legislation zoomed through the Legislature with hardly an opposing vote, and, we suspect, without a thorough vetting...

 

This was patently ridiculous legislation, easily challenged in court as unconstitutional...

The bill ignored the fact... [that] the ratings can provide helpful information to parents, but should not supercede a parent's decision to let a child buy a game or DVD. In that, HB353 flew in the face of Utah's traditional support of parents' rights...

 

Is that really what legislators believed they were voting for... ? Probably not, but the legislation's broad language invited a whole set of consequences that were not intended...

In their misplaced zeal to limit access to media they don't like, our legislators might have eliminated the very tools parents need to set limits on what their children see and hear. We dodged a bullet on this one. Having misfired badly, the Legislature should not bring it up again.

10 comments

Utah Bill Sponsor Blames Guv's Veto on Gamer E-mails

March 26, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman vetoed HB 353, the Jack Thompson video game/movie bill that would have targeted retailers who sold M-rated games or R-rated movies to minors.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mike Morley (R-UT), told the Salt Lake Tribune:

I think it's simply a result of an e-mail campaign from a lot of gamers that misrepresent the bill and [the governor's staff] has not studied it closely enough to recognize that is not the case. I think it was crafted very carefully to avoid those issues and I think they're mistaken.

However, a source close to Utah state politics told GamePolitics yesterday that Gov. Huntsman was the subject of intense lobbying from retailers. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Entertainment Software Association mounted a major lobbying campaign as well.

Morley complained to the Deseret News that the Guv didn't give him a courtesy call before vetoing the bill:

I would have thought that just common courtesy would have been to call me.

Legislators are now deciding whether to pursue an override of the veto.

32 comments

 
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KronoThe underlying suggestion most of the articles had that gamers supporting the issue were just the young men stereotype pissed off a lot of people, and sparked the #NotYourShield tag09/18/2014 - 9:41am
Krono@andrew Just two? The whole reason #GamerGate gained real traction was that 9 op-eds including arguments to that effect dropped in 24 hours: http://markdownshare.com/view/a524affd-e679-40be-8aa1-72058065dc2a09/18/2014 - 9:38am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.gog.com/forum/general/double_fine_abandoned_spacebase_df9_development ITT: People who don't know what Early Access is.09/18/2014 - 9:32am
ZippyDSMleeFF2/4 remake now on steam.09/18/2014 - 9:13am
james_fudgeThis what they really think of us: http://www.donotlink.com/framed?54192709/18/2014 - 9:10am
ConsterAh yes, nothing quite says "I take offense to being associated with an awful few" like siding with said awful few.09/18/2014 - 9:07am
Michael ChandraSo be smart, and if you want to be part of the good guys, separate yourself from the bad guys. Don't attack those upset you won't.09/18/2014 - 6:30am
Michael ChandraMeanwhile, Gamergate is tainted and wise people already use a different tag to defend decent arguments. Keeping it up is like going #KKK while arguing about PoC.09/18/2014 - 6:30am
Michael ChandraSo while claiming to be unfairly attacked for the actions of a selected few, you unfairly attack an entire crowd for the actions of a selected few? #notagamer #butahater09/18/2014 - 6:30am
james_fudgeQuiknkold: Let me ask you- how many of those 'gamers are dead' articles did you see here? Because apparently i'm part of some vast conspiracy.09/18/2014 - 5:18am
NeenekoAh, that old straw man. That is one of the ironies about the discussion, the whole point is showing how good people can still have problems with sexism and not realize it.09/17/2014 - 9:11pm
Andrew EisenYes, there have been a handful of op-eds suggesting that the term “gamer” has become tainted (two that I know of) but that’s the opinion of only a few. I've seen an equal number from those who disagree.09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenExcept, you haven't provided a single example of a site that’s actually calling gamers a "collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling Manchildren."09/17/2014 - 8:55pm
TechnogeekIf you want to make the stereotype of gamers less painful, try calling people out when they do bad shit rather than handwave it away as "not all gamers". Even if it is a few bad apples, that'll still more than enough to spoil the barrel.09/17/2014 - 8:53pm
quiknkoldI'm not going to Sell Gamergate anymore. It can sell itself. But I will sell the integrity of the Gamer. That we are still good people, who create and donate to charitys, Who engage with those around us and just want to have a good time.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldpeople should not be harrassed and punished for the actions of a few. I've always welcomed and accepted everybody who wanted to join in. Who wanted to make them, or play them. I love good strong female protagonists, and want more.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldOne of the tennants of Gamergate is to stand up against Harrassment. That Gamers arent like those assholes. We can argue for days if the Sexism or Antifeminism or corruption is there or not, But the one thing I believe in and wear on my sleave is that09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldBut there were these websites, attacking me and people like me, for the actions of a few. and then others joined in on Twitter and other places. there was a hashtag that said "explain in 4 words a gamer" and it made me sick.09/17/2014 - 7:35pm
quiknkoldManchildren who are awful people and that the Identity of the Gamer should die. This hurt me personally. I've always identified as a Gamer. Even in my childhood years, I was a Gamer. All my friends are Gamers. Its one of the core parts of my identity.09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
quiknkoldUltimately, With the whole Gamergate thing, I jumped on it due to the harassment. A small number of assholes harrass Anita and Zoe, and then all the publications lumped together Gamers as this collective of Sexist White Bigoted Basement Dwelling09/17/2014 - 7:34pm
 

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