Friday, May 30, 2014

Trading A Crackhead Ford For A Benz With Plenty Of Booby Crack: Could Nikki Benz Really Become Toronto's Ciccolina??

Porn and politics is always a combustible mix as it is.

But one element that has been more than lacking is the thought of porn performers IN politics. At least, not in North America.

Of course, the worldwide template in the 80's/90's for practicing porn performers actually representing in office was Illona Staller, the Hungarian porn performer known and loved in Italy as Ciccolina, who later parlayed her XXX fame into two terms as a member of the Italian Parliament under the libertarian Radical Party.

There have been a few other passing attempts at mixing pro-sex politics with politics, such as Australia's Sex Party and Anna Arrowsmith's run for British parliament...but other than that, most attempts to bring more progressive views of porn into political bodies have fallen to the dominant Puritanism of our time.

In the United States, the closest you could find to a porn performer attempting a political run was Mary Carey's PR attempt to sell her Arnold Schwarzenegger parody, thinly disguised as a run for California governor during the 1990's, resulting from the recall of incumbent Gray Davis. Unfortunately for the libertarian Carey, that didn't turn out so well even in the PR aspect; nevertheless, she has survived and thrived in her more natural environment as a porn performer.

Times have progressed, however, to the point that social media have greatly improved the popular reach of porn performers; and combined with the popularity of hardcore porn political satire (see Sarah Palin pilloried by Lisa Ann in the Who's Naylin Paylin series), has increased greatly the possibility of a breakthrough in porn performers seriously challenging to serve in office.

Given the common stereotyping of porn performers as airheads more interested in the next blowjob than creating jobs, it would take a stupendously smart and savvy, as well as sexy, woman to shatter that particular glass ceiling and assume the position of pioneer.

Someone, you could say, like Nikki Benz.



The native of Toronto, Canada, and long time performer, feature dancer, and owner of her NikkiBenz.com website (part of Vicky Vette's Vette Nation Army network), is on track to file official papers this week in order to launch her campaign to oust her home city's incumbent mayor, Rob Ford. (See Update below.)

That would be the same Rob Ford, people, that has graced Toronto's City Hall for the past 4 years under nonstop hilarious wacky controversy after controversy. You may have heard about those rumors of him smoking crack cocaine in his offices (those are true), or his mouthing off against charges of sexual harassment of his staff because "I get enough pussy at home" (also true); or even the reports that he went on drunken spurts with his buddies, even going as far as driving drunk, and even having the brass to make YouTube videos of his exploits under the influence.

Now, in most cases, getting caught smoking crack and Moellering* up behind the wheel rolling 1.7 BAC would be enough to get your ass run from office. Problem is, Canadian law somehow prevents impeachment or removal of officials from office, so the Toronto City Council was reduced to curtailing Ford's powers and shifting some of them, as well as his staff, to his Deputy Mayor, Norm Kelly. Ford, though, is still very popular with that conservative segment of the electorate that really digs populist Right strongmen not afraid to ruffle the feathers in favor of "less guviment" and lower taxes; and he decided that he wanted to serve for another 4 years by filing last January for reelection.

Before Wednesday, Ford faced 54 challengers from diverse parties for reclaiming his seat. Benz becomes candidate #55.

Now, it may be said that she's not really serious about campaigning for Toronto mayor, and that this is all nothing more than show and blow to enhance Nikki's already towering career as a porn performer. Her first campaign "commercial" was really a 30 minute spot hosted by the porn site Brazzers.com, to which Nikki has shot several scenes sans clothes. However, she certainly sounds like she's in it to win it, because she sounds like she is truly fed up with Ford's act and that at the very least, she could do far better to reinhance Toronto's tarnished reputation.

And...I'd say she'd look a hell of a lot better sitting in the Mayor's chair than Rob Ford ever did.

Here's a vid of Nikki announcing her bid for Toronto's Mayor, released via Brazzers.com:



UPDATE (6-3-14): Nikki's quest for nomination took a slight detour last week, due to some minor paperwork malfunction. Seems like she didn't have a valid local license in order to qualify for the position, so her paperwork was rejected. Nikki confirmed that she would still be able to qualify with the proper credentials by this week, so the campaign appears to be still go on unabated.

AB 1576 Clears California Assembly: Time To Hit The Panic Button Now??

Well....what previously was thought to be impossible just happened this week.

Isadore Hall's bill (AB 1576) mandating condoms on all porn shoots, along with 14-day testing and requirements for performers and producers to document their testing and usage and make such documents available on request to government officials, cleared both the California Assembly Appropriations Committee last week, and then was passed by the full Assembly last Wednesday.

In both cases, the vote count was the minimum required for passage (4-1 in the Appropriations Committee; 41-15 in the full Assembly).

The key this time around was that Izzy Hall did a full court press in backing his bill in the Assembly, with the full assistance of AIDS Healthcare Foundation grease money and the pathos of testimony from their paid victims Cameron Bay and Rod Daily, which managed to swiing around even prior opponents of Hall's condom mandate bills. Even Mike Gallo, the Appropriations Committee chairman who basically killed Hall's efforts last year by claiming Constitutional issues and the costs of enforcement, flipped over to AHF's side, along with nearly every Democrat in the Assembly. Other Democrats who may have opposed the bill on principle simply decided to abstain, probably fearing the backlash of AHF money or the apparent fear of being perceived as being against condoms or young "victims" of the "porn industry".

So, now, it's onward to the Senate, where new battles will have to be fought..but the bill that everyone feared is now much closer to Governor Jerry Brown's desk than anyone would have anticipated.

Although the ultimate fate of the bill is still unclear, since even if it passes and Gov Moonbeam affixes his signature, it could face years of legal challenges, the fact that this bill passed the Cali Assembly in spite of the aggressive campaigning of groups like the Free Speech Coalition and the organization of hundreds of performers united to defend their right of determination for STI testing, raises some pretty deep questions about the strategy put forth by opponents of AB 1576. 

Essentially, the main focus of the lead groups of the opposition, namely, the FSC and the website Kink.com, was that the current system of testing and screening for HIV and other STI's was more than adequate, that mandating condoms would threaten porn production's profits since viewers prefered bareback sex and would not buy condomized porn, and that the laws would drive porn production -- described as a key profit making industry -- out of California and into less protected venues. In effect, the emphasis was towards a classic conservative/libertarian argument against excessive government intervention in business and personal life.

The extent to which that strategy worked was that almost all of the votes in the Assembly against the bill were from that small group of Republicans (Democrats have a supermajority in that body), including even such antiporn conservatives as Tom Donnelly. Problem was, that argument simply didn't fly with the majority of Democrats, and especially not with Black and Latino Democrats, who view libertarian conservative arguments in general as mere defenses of corporate greed and privilege, and who were moved by Bay's eloquent tearful pantomine of being a "victim" of the "porn industry" that simply "abandoned" her at her greatest moment of need. Never mind Bay's own history of deception and even bullying, combined with questions about exactly how she and her boyfriend Daily really did get infected with HIV, and the nature of how she might have been compensated by AHF in exchange for grafting her story to fit their campaign (as earlier "victim" Derrick Burts was compensated as well). All of that was washed away by the flood of the "Condoms would have saved everyone from certain death; and if you oppose this, you are risking people's lives...and besides, it's only a freakin' condom!!!" meme.

 I've been one who has gently and respectfully questioned the conservative approach previously during the Measure B campaign; but a slightly less gentle critique comes from BPPA contributor Ernest Greene, whom has been on the front lines of the condom mandate campaign as both a producer and a board member of the Adult Industry Medical Foundation, one of the main casulties of the condom mandate campaign. On Wednesday, in a comment over at The Real Porn Wikileaks, Ernest restated his concerns about the strategy; his comment deserves reprinting in its entirity.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Eden Alexander/WePay Update: Crowdtilt Saves The Day, And More About WePay's Decision Exposed


[Crossposted to Red Garter Club 3.2 as well] 
 
Since I broke the news (also here) of the unfolding controversy involving cam model/porn director/sex worker Eden Alexander and the actions of payment provider WePay and crowdfundraising site GiveForward.com, events have been breaking early and often. So, here's an update on what has happened and what may happen next.

First, some wonderful news: Eden Alexander did tweet on Saturday that she is out of surgery and now recovering in her hospital bed; she is getting the treatment and the rest that she needs, and she is, from every indication, in good spirits (albeit ovewhelmed and exhausted from all the physical and emotional strain of the past few days).

Secondly, some more wonderful and pretty heartening news: The porn/sex work disapora has, to say the least, responded to Eden's plight the way the Allies responded in Normandy in World War II. Since the alternate fundraising site was set up over at Cloudtilt.com, it has raised more than $8,500 in all of nearly 48 hours...and is currently about to hit $9K. Not too shabby, if I may say so. Those wanting to give their contribution can still access Eden's page here if they choose.

Amazingly enough, one of the more significant contributions came from the head of GiveForward, the crowdraising site which operated Alexander's original fundraiser. Attached to it was a message from GiveForward representative Michael Powell, apologizing to Eden for their role in the disaster and contributing the equivalent of their and WePay's donation fees as an atonement. (Screenshot of Powell's donation statement courtesy of Chris Lowrance's Twitter page)

GiveForwardApologyToEdenAlexander

Unfortunately, no such atonement has as of yet come from the actual instigators of the whole controversy, the payment processor WePay. As of right now, they are still sticking to their story that they were simply forced by their regulations and rules to axe Eden's account because she allegedly violated their Terms of Service involving using their account for "pornographic services". They did clarify, though, that they have released all of the funds collected from the fundraiser; funds raised before May 14th were processed and transferred to Eden's account; while funds raised after that were returned to their respective donors.

A bit more clarity has now been opened on WePay's processes since this first broke. Vice.com's Motherboard blog on yesterday posted their perspective on the whole controversy, which opened up some new revelations about the controversy.

We now know that WePay's backdoor processor for all its financial dealings is a company called Vantiv, which was described as one of the largest processers of bank card payments in the United States; as well as the owner of nearly 12,000 ATM's (Automated Teller Machines) nationwide. No one as of yet has asked their spokespersons whether those who take out money at those ATM's are screened for their outside activities the same way that Eden Alexander was screened for hers, or whether they even care that the money pulled from ATM's or other transactions could be used for porn or other illicit or even illegal purposes.

And that's kind of a relevant question, because, according to the Vice.com article....
On Twitter, WePay's cofounder Bill Clerico explained a bit more. Many of things banned in the service's terms (like porn anything) are required by processors because "they are prone to fraud and abuse." WePay is required by its partners (financial partners, presumably) to actively monitor (surveill) its users for policy violations, which includes combing through Twitter accounts, a task done by actual humans. "We must enforce these policies or we face hefty fines or the risk of shutdown for the many hundreds of thousands of merchants on our service," said Rassa.
This begs some huge questions: How can private firms and banks and other financial institutions retain the power to sanction and fine or even shut down payment processors for the mere "crime" of association with certain types of transactions...even if such transactions are perfectly legal and above board? Does the mere suspicion of abuse or fraud warrant dropping the hammer, the anvil, the Rock of Gibraltar, and a million gallons of genuine Niagara Falls on a woman raising funds for her medical bills?? And, more importantly, are these rules being enforced equally, or are they selectively enforced based on mere personal bias or selective prejudice against.....oh, I don't know....sex workers and porn performers?

This also brings us back to that "Operation ChokePoint" thing that the US Department of Justice is now doing to target banks and financial institutions to combat all sorts of shady activities. The initial educational material that the DoJ pushed out to Big Finance did label "pornography" as one of the subset activities warranting suspicion and further investigation, alongside other, more traditional activities such as subprime lending, online payday loansharking, telemarketing, and other sources of possible chargeback/usury abuse. There is still plenty of furious debate whether the real responsibility lies with the government for "overzealous" regulation (the theory of the Libertarian Right and the traditional conservatives who oppose all regulation on general principle); or Big Finance for misinterpreting and twisting the regulations around for their own purpose, and using sex workers and porn folk as human shields and stepping stones to get back at the regulators (the more liberal/progressive view).

And then, you wonder whether even WePay understand their own Terms of Service. The alleged acts that triggered Eden Alexander's account to get pulled were two retweets that she did of a couple of porn sites which attempted to give some...ummm, incentives to donate to her fund....namely, some free pics and reduced prices on some porn videos that Eden had starred in. Forget the basic fact that retweets are not necessarily endorsements of what is tweeted, and that nowhere in Alexander's initial funding pitch or any of her own tweets does she offer anything in quid pro quo for donating to her fund. And, never mind the basic fact that the whole point of the fundraiser was to pay her medical bills and help her through a potential life threatening situation. You could make the case that she really did not violate their ToS at all..and yet WePay (perhaps under pressure from Vantiv or maybe OCP) simply decided they had to pull the trigger and nuke Eden's account for "consistency's sake".

The fact that WePay is induced (by their contracts with their financial partners, they say) to essentially spy on their paying customers' personal social media accounts in order to detect even the smallest excuse for dismissal...errrrrrrr, the slightest indication of "fraud and abuse", does not induce much comfort for those who care about privacy or free expression, either.

More likely, it looks like WePay/Vantiv is engaging in the same old tired bullshit act of slut shaming, sex shaming, and porn shaming that other financial institutions like PayPal, Amazon, JPMorganChase, and a few others have mastered. Considering that a major antiporn summit just concluded this weekend, alongside of a just as major confab of "movement conservatives" bent on imposing similar moral values on the rest of America. Between that and the ongoing "sex trafficking" panic that is scaring plenty of liberals into compliance with antisex legislation, that's more than enough to keep Big Finance and the politicians they buy to keep holding the line against "those dirty sluts and whores" using "their money" to "corrupt" fair patriotic American society.

It may be that Eden Alexander is simply a small victim in this major war of financial wits. Thankfully, due to the generosity of her fans and those who actually think that sex workers are as human as everyone else, she will survive and recover.

WePay, for its part, has backslid a bit since getting absolutely singed by the social media firestorm. They did offer to provide Eden a new fundraiser page, but by then her followers had already moved over to Cloudtilt. They also promised a review of their ToS and procedures for shutting down accounts, though they didn't say whether or not they would change their procedures for reviewing accounts or even their surveillance of customer's social media accounts.

It should also be noted that while Cloudtilt's ToS does not mention porn at all; their own payment processing company, Balanced.com, does have a Sellers Agreement with their clients that does ban "sexually-oriented or pornographic products or services". (Raising the question of whether a company like, say, Lovability Condoms could use their services.)

The main issue in all this remains that sex workers who practice a legal profession (and in California and New Hampshire, porn is fully protected as constitutional free speech) should not face any Scarlet Letters when they attempt to raise funds for whatever reason they choose for legal purposes....and especially NOT for the purpose of paying their medical bills. Why they should have to resort to crowdfunding for essential healthcare in one of the richest countries in the world is an issue in and of itself....but that's another issue to tackle.

It all comes back to the basic ideas:

Sex workers and porn performers/cam girls are human beings; "sluts" are people, too; and if you exchange money for sex in any way, then you might be as much a "whore" as an actual sex worker....they just only are open and out and honest about it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why Anti-Sex Worker/AntiPorn Discrimination Matters: The Eden Alexander/WePay Debacle

[also crossposted over at Red Garter Club]

[Update: Eden Alexander's new fundraising page has now raised over $6,000; you can add your contribution, if you are so inclined, over at her page.] 

There has been plenty of ink spilled recently over how sex workers, porn performers, and adult models are being targeted for discrimination and abuse, but this week has now focused this issue much more intensely through an ongoing situation that could turn potentially tragic.

I have posted previously here on the ongoing saga of JP Morgan Chase, the major financial conglomerate, and its efforts to cancel the accounts of porn performers, citing "reputational risk". For those who have missed it, Chase started mailing cancellation notices to several porn performers (Teagan Presley among others) around mid-April, warning them that their accounts would be pulled by May 11th due to unstated violations of their Terms of Service.....even though they didn't provide any evidence that any of the accounts were used for unsanctioned purposes.

I've also posted on the recent program by the Department of Justice, "Operation ChokePoint", which began as a guide for financial regulators and banking institutions for seeking out and screening potentially suspectible practices and illegal activities through third-party payment processors. The program did list "pornography" as one of many forms of activity warranting added scrutiny, but it did not endorse specifically going after adult transactions for proscecution; it was designed as more of a broad-brush means of regulation. Nevertheless, banking institutions such as Chase has used this program as a justification for their current blacking out of porn performers and other adult transactions; and opponents of regulation have cited what they see as the overreach of Operation ChokePoint into porn accounts as a critique of regulation per se.

But...all of that, for what it's worth, merely pales to the human tragedy now unfolding that exposes the cold heart and the ultimate consequenses of what discrimination against adult sex workers can lead to.

That would be the human tragedy that Eden Alexander is now facing.

Eden Alexander is a cam model, producer, and independent artist whom recently faced a series of medical emergencies that nearly cost her her life and required her to undergo multiple bouts of hospitalization. First, she suffered an allergic reaction to a common prescription drug. When her original doctor refused to offer proper medication and treatment for her condition, effectively citing her profession and hinting of "drug abuse", that condition elevated into a full-flared MRSA/staph infection, which then triggered other reactions that nearly killed her. Due to the delay in getting proper treatment, her infection even further spread to the point where she was further incapacitated...to the point where she was (and still is) unable to provide for herself or her family through her work.

Thusly, she and her friends opened up a fundraising drive through GiveForward.com in order to solicit funds for her to essentially stay alive until she recovers. (You may know about GiveForward from here earlier, because it was the same fundraiser site that Nina Hartley used nearly four years ago to raise funds for her fibroid surgery recovery.) The fundraiser managed to suceed quite well, with nearly $5,000 raised from friends and performers alike.

And that's when WePay, the payment processor for GiveForward.com, decided to intervene in a very bad way.

This morning, Eden Alexander tweeted this to her timeline:
The email, which she attached to her tweet, did not state explicitly how they determined that she was using the fundraising for "pornographic activities"; it simply noted that the account was in violation of their Terms of Service, and abruptly cancelled it without notice.

Shaken enough by her condition, this new shock to her system may have pushed Eden off the cliff. She subsequently tweeted even more disturbing thoughts of ending her life, and then disappeared off the timeline; prompting real concerns of suicide. She has since been hospitalized and is currently in ER treatment.

The adult world has also been shaken to its own core by all this; a new fundraiser for Alexander has been launched through Crowdtilt.com, which has recouped more than the share of funds that the original GiveForward fundraiser did; it is still ongoing as of now.

And, the rage of the adult performer diaspora has been raining down on WePay like the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina over the Louisiana coast. Kitty Stryker, a close friend of Eden and one of the creators of the first fundraiser, let loose a furious retort to WePay and its inconsistencies in its ToS that is must reading. A sample:
What WePay (and therefore GiveForward) is effectively saying is that because Eden is a cam girl by profession, raising money for medical funds is suspicious and banned.

Because we all know sex workers can’t be trusted, and we’ll probably blow our money on porn rather than self care, and we all have robot bodies that never get ill, right?
However, and here’s where I’m really, really fucking angry, here’s some other areas they ban.

Oh yeah, WePay? Like “revealing the evils of the homosexual agenda“? How about going to other countries to spread imperialist Christianity among communities of colour? AWESOME SO GLAD YOU FUND THAT


Yeah cool so you’re totally not helping fund “love donations” for psychic readings. Cause science has totally explained that.


But you’ll totally help people go to fat camp, or get post-weight loss surgeries. Even if it’s someone raising money for their partner because he’s decided she’s too fat.

If they seriously ban everyone who has ever worked retail from using WePay, I’ll eat my hat. Not for selling the products through WePay, but ever selling licensed products ever.
For their part, WePay did attempt a public response to the firestorm of criticism...which only fanned the flames that much more. WePay CEO Bill Clerico tweeted an attempt to defend their actions, stating that Eden Alexander violated their ToS and justified her cancellation by retweeting a post from her supporters offering free porn for donating to her fund. (To which the proper response by anyone with a shred of decency and humanism should be: "So?? Does that justify denying a sick woman funds??")

Then, WePay issued a written press statement "apologizing" to Alexander for all that took place, but still defending their actions due to compliance with "back end processors" such as Visa and MasterCard. (Riiiight, because they don't do business with porn sites, either, as my inability to use my paycard to join porn sites can attest.) Here's WePay's "statement" (via Cyborgology):

wepay1
One Clerico tweet even went so far as to admit that WePay screens and monitors' their customers for suspicion of "fraud and abuse", but only "because they have to"....an oblique reference, perhaps to Operation CheckPoint and the DoJ's initiative.

P. J. Rey of The Society Pages' Cyborgology blog cuts through that bullshit most adequately:
WePay’s response, predictably, amounts to the old “don’t blame us, blame the market” strategy of denying responsibility. This is the same pattern we recently witnessed with Paypal and Chase: Rather than working to find ways to conduct business without discrimination, execs shrug their shoulders and point to the markets as supposed justification for what, in this case, is not only unjust, but downright inhumane, treatment. We, the public, are expected to just resign our democratic values when the market deems them inconvenient.
Fuck that. The discriminatory practices of a back-end processor and concerns about fraud do not and will not ever justify denying medical care to a very real human being, regardless of her occupation.
And , Rey adds this depressing thought about how all this feeds into general stigma and slut shaming and sex shaming in general, as well as how even libertarianism isn't enough in defending sex workers/porn performers/adult models:
What is perhaps most shocking about this tragedy is that it illustrates how readily we dehumanize sex workers. Whether it is the doctor (who reportedly dismissed the severity Alexander’s condition, assuming it to be the product of drug abuse) or WePay shutting down her donations page because she is connected to the production pornographic content, institutional policies and practices reduced Alexander (as they do all sex workers) to being nothing more than her work. Unfortunately, this too often how stigma works. From the perspective of this institutionalized stigma, you can’t be a sex worker and a person in need of medical treatment because when you’re a sex worker, you are only a sex worker. A person’s humanity is flattened and they are seen only as their stigma. This is an observation that Kitty Stryker and Melissa Gira Grant both made pointedly:
kitty melissa

What market logic does–when we fail to intervene demanding that humanitarian values be respected–is to reduce humans to mere risks and opportunities. Risk is stigma in market terms. Both flatten a person and mark them for exclusion. When a CEO says “sex workers are a risk,” they always, implicitly, mean “a risk–and nothing more.” The purpose of such language is to depersonalize and dehumanize and, thereby, to remove the moral impediments to exclusion.
What we, collectively, need to do is present new impediments to exclusion–to create conditions where exclusion itself is risky business. I know I, for one, won’t be using WePay any time soon for any of my projects.
I would say that it's not just "whore stigma", but simple sex hate and slut-shaming, combined with the additional stigmatization of keeping their money while denying them their humanity, that drives institutions like WePay, JPMorganChase, PayPal, and all the rest. (It wasn't until the protest tornado hit WePay's pig farm that they finally decided to release the funds from the GiveForward fundraiser over to Eden Alexander, and offer to "help" her restart her original fundraiser. Otherwise, they would have probably even kept those funds in their back pocket, or at least pocketed the commissions and fees from processing it.)

If the funds raised so far end up ultimately funding Eden Alexander's funeral, then WePay, Chase, the Department of Justice, and all the other financial institutions endorsing this gratituous discrimination have blood on their hands. And they need to pay, through their wallets. Slut/whore/sex stigma has got to be opposed and stomped out, by any means necessary.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lorelei Lee Makes The Case Against AB 1576 (aka "Izzy's Last Condom Stand")

There are so many well documented reasons why AB 1576, Isadore Hall's condom mandate/personal protection bill needs to be defeated....but who better to explain the most cogent reasons than a porn performer herself.

Thankfully, the folks over at Kink.com teamed up with perfomer Lorelei Lee to produce a video for YouTube, which basically explains why most performers are lining up against this bill.

I'll just shut up now and let Lorelei take it away.

  

(Originally posted at The Real Porn Wikileaks)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The JPMorgan Chase Crackdown On Porn Accounts: A DOJ Campaign, Or A Diversion By Big Banks To Avoid Accountability For Shady Deals?

Most of you have heard now that the financial conglomerate JPMorgan Chase has been sending notices to a significant number of porn performers announcing without prior notice and without reason that their personal banking accounts will be terminated by May 11th...apparently due to violating their "risk assessment" standards.

Teagan Presley was noted as one of the performers whose account was terminated (along with her husband's account), even though she has been retired from active performing for almost two years. She recalled the way she was informed of this through this Vice.com article.

This past Monday, porn star Teagan Presley arrived home in Las Vegas from yet another whirlwind strip club appearance tour and found a letter from her bank.

Chase was closing her account, which was listed under her legal name, as well as the account of her husband.

When Presley went to the bank in person to ask why, she was told it’s because she’s considered “high risk.”

“And then they told me that they canceled my husband’s account too, because our social security numbers are linked,” Presley told VICE News. “They told him that it was because I’m a notorious adult star. Which is funny, because I’m kind of a goody-goody in the business, and I’m not even doing porn anymore.”
The issue of porn accounts being nuked by Chase was originally exposed by, of all people, Hollywood media gossiper Perez Hilton, who posted one of Chase's cancellation letters at his blog. XBiz.com later further elaborated on the issue, with comments from adult attorney Michael Fattorosi on the possiblilty of legal action against such discrimination.
Adult industry attorney Michael Fattorosi told XBIZ that Chase and other banks have “notoriously closed adult accounts or people in the industry’s accounts, but nothing like this.”

“Throughout my practice I’ve had clients that have had their bank accounts closed, once the bank recognizes or determines that they’re in the adult industry. I’ve seen that on numerous occasions,” he said. “What I’ve never seen is a bank taking a position and sending out mass letters.”

Fattorosi noted that it is yet unclear, however, how many people’s accounts were actually shut down.
   
Whether legal recourse for those whose accounts were nixed is plausible — and, if so, which path is optimal — remains unclear, given that the situation is novel and that banks generally have the prerogative to do business with who they choose (yes, that often means flagrant discrimination).

Fattorosi plans to do more case study research before he makes a judgment call, explaining  “Sometimes there are banking laws that are different than we would normally expect.”
And, it's not the first time that JPMorgan Chase has been up to its knees in antiporn censorship, either.  The softcore erotica production company MRG Entertainment recently had their founder Marc Greenburg file suit against JPMC for allegedly violating fair lender laws by denying them a loan for "moral reasons".

Adult performer Chanel Preston has documented her own travails with JPMC offspring City National Bank, when they terminated her account without cause last year.

And then, there is the Lovability Condoms case, where that company (which focuses on selling condoms to women) had their third party merchant account with Chase offspring Chase Paymentech pulled (then reinstated after loud protest).

That particular case first brought light to the government program which some are blaming for the increased censorship: an Department of Justice initiative called "Operation Choke Point", which attempts to target banks and other financial institutions for interactions with predatory and illegal under-the-radar actors.

Progressive blogger David Dayen (formerly with the California-based political blog Caletics, and now a freelance contributor to blogs such as Hullabaloo and firedoglake) first brought up the initial reaction to the DOJ's new initiative in a post he wrote for the blog Naked Capitalism (no, not a porn site, y'all).

The main goal of OCP is to hold banks far more accountable than they previously was for profiting from predatory lending, hyperaggressive telemarketing and spamming, and other shady financial dealings. Most of those deals were being processed through what are known as third party payment processors (TPPP's) which provide a quasi-legal cover for the kind of deals that regular banks would normally not do, such as processing of usurously high-interest online payday loan lending.

In public hearings and seminars throughout the US, the DOJ alerted banks to what they should watch for in order to catch and prevent fraud; including a list of businesses more suspectable to chargebacks or false returns. One seminar listing did list "pornography" as one of the kind of transactions to be watched, but that was done only in passing, and only as a means of red-flagging those with high suspectability of fraud.

The reasoning for targeting the banks rather than the TPPPs directly, according to the DOJ, was because the former could disappear into the ether and reappear under new aliases with frequency, undercutting efforts to reign them in.

Naturally, those banks who get plenty of their money off deals with TPPPs (not to mention the TPPPs themselves) weren't too happy with the tightened scrutiny, and thusly formed a lobbying group, the Third Party Payment Processors Association, to jack up and shake down Congress to slow down the aggressiveness of the DOJ. And, possibly, threaten payback through the "human shield" of denying accounts.
…banks, payment processing firms and a relatively new lobbying group called the Third Party Payment Processors Association have been going wild on Capitol Hill in recent months over a pretty conventional law enforcement effort with a salacious name: Operation Choke Point. The project attempts to curb money laundering by scrutinizing banks and payment processors that facilitate transactions with illegal businesses — petty fraudsters running payday lending scams, sham telemarketing operations and other shady groups.
[...]

Democrats in Congress say the Third Party Payment Processors Association — a lobby group that formed last year in response to Operation Choke Point — has issued similar warnings in private meetings.

They came in here and said, ‘How would you like it if we started cutting off things liberals like, like birth control?‘” says one House Democratic aide who met with the TPPPA in November.

“They can assign reputation risk based on their moral judgements, but everybody has different moral judgments,” TPPPA President Marsha Jones told HuffPost. “That’s the danger of it. One administration is polarized one way and the other another way. And we must remove morality out of payments because it’s dangerous.”
It was right about that time that Chase Paymentech, their own standalone TPPP, canceled Lovability Condoms' account, citing "reputational risk". Though Lovability's owner, Tiffany Gaines, was able to recover her company's account with a strong public protest, her attempt to get some answers as to why her account was pulled in the first place got quite interesting, to say the least:
The marketing executive for Chase Paymentech, she became aware of my situation through the media. She first said it was a bad judgment call on their part, and they would agree to process our payments. I said what would you do to make sure this doesn’t happen again. They said they would train their representatives to be more sensitive and inquisitive and understand the businesses they were dealing with more thoroughly.
I thought this was a wishy-washy attempt to get me to be quiet. I told her that my representative was very sensitive and inquisitive, but the power was not in her hands, it was in the hands of risk management department, who said my business fell into a prohibited category. I asked her, what are the prohibited categories? She said child pornography, fraud, this and that. I said condoms don’t fall into those categories, and also, isn’t there a gray area? You process payments for hotels, and they make a lot of their money off of adult movies.
So then she put the blame on the government. She said that Chase Bank is a federally regulated bank, and that they have to pay attention to federal regulations. Other pornography companies can use things that aren’t federally regulated.
Let's set aside the distinction between Lovability Condoms and VIVID for a sec; notice how the Chase Paymentech rep, after attempting another round of obfuscation, finally attempts to put the blame on the government for having to suspend payments for "pornography companies". Never mind that the OCP guidelines do not specifically target adult-related companies for added scrutiny solely based on their content, but rather targets potentially illegal transactions in general.

Segue to the current sitch of JP Morgan Chase Bank shuttering down adult performer accounts without warning, and you can see what they might really be up to now. It seems that they are simply overreacting to Operation ChokePoint and using it as a ruse to target porn performers' accounts as kind of a "false flag" in their efforts to defend their other TPPP transactions against the "heavy hand of government". Or...they are just using this as a ruse to go Hobby Lobby and enforce their own conservative morality against porn performers as "moral risks".

AVN's Tom Hymes, in an essay posted this morning, spells it out directly.
If [Dayen's] hypothesis is accurate, it's an interesting conundrum in which the banking sector, through the new TPPPS, is falsely accusing the government of forcing it to be a moral arbiter so that it can get out of performing regulatory duties it is already tasked with, in order to reap handsome returns from unscrupulous players it wants to continue doing business with. The only fly in the ointment is where the porn stars who have had their accounts closed fit into this picture. Though presumably innocent of any wrongdoing with respect to their bank account activity, it's hard to imagine the greater public, or the government for that matter, coming to their defense in significant numbers.
But maybe adult performers were just the lowest hanging fruit that provided Chase with the least resistant path to be able to continue making the argument that it is the government that is forcing its moral stance onto them and the performers, and not the bank using the performers to "lobby-through-threat."
Now, the more libertarian Right side of the porn diaspora has taken a slightly different position in this: they basically have adopted the position that Chase is simply a victim of an outright government campaign against porn commerce, and that TPPPs should be defended and protected in the wake of Operation ChokePoint's "hyperaggeressiveness".

One such activist is Andrew Langer, who writes a blog for a right-wing enterprise called The Institute for Liberty; he is absolutely convinced that Operation ChokePoint is indeed just another evil socialist plot by Barack Obama to destroy the adult industry. (Never mind that it has been far more conservative administrations whom have been more direct about assaulting porn; see former Bush DOJ Obscenity Task Force Chairman Patrick Trueman, now head of the antiporn activist group Porn Harms.) I'll simply repost his press statement on Perez Hilton's seminal article and let you see the hyperbole for yourself.
“Operation Choke Point,” the President’s infamous program which seeks to cut off legal industries and law-abiding businesses from their financial institutions had previously identified adult-entertainment as a target along with gun sellers and short-term lenders.  Banks across the nation have already severed relationships with thousands of customers because of Operation Choke Point:

“In President Obama’s America, it just doesn’t matter whether you’ve done anything illegal.  It doesn’t matter if your industry operates within the confines of the law. You can still be in the crosshairs of the Federal government. This report confirms what we’ve suspected for some time, that Operation Choke Point would expand to destroy the other industries on the President’s infamous hit list.

This abuse of power and these intimidation tactics fly in the face of the free market and free society. Yesterday it was check-cashers and today it’s the adult entertainment industry.  We know where they are going next because they’ve told us -- direct sales businesses, gun and ammunition sellers, the gaming industry and charities. It’s becoming clear that no industry is safe from this administration’s mob-style approach to regulation.”
Gee...all for the right to generate 400% payday loans and other money laundering scams.  Riiight.

One note: many of the performers that did have their Chase accounts pulled were able to sign up with other banks with less corrosive standards; competitor Wells Fargo put out a statement earlier in the week that adult performers would be more than welcome to form accounts there. There is also talk of some legal action against Chase under discrimination statutes; though, as Michael Fattorosi cited earlier, there is scarce legal precedent for such action...and given the low public standing of porn, it probably wouldn't generate much support. Then again, given that financial institutions aren't really so high these days with public regard either, that might be a bit questionable.

As always, as news breaks on this, we'll update.