There were a lot of factors at play during the U.S. financial crisis. Here's a less cited one: porn. A new investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission finds that senior SEC officials—entrusted with enforcing regulation in the markets—spent hours on end perusing Internet porn at the height of the financial collapse. The commentariat responds:

  • The Details of the Investigation Are 'Shocking,' writes Daniel Wagner at The Associate Press. He notes a particularly egregious instance of misconduct: "A senior attorney at the SEC's Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office."
  • Totally Unacceptable, says Peter Morici, a former director at the U.S. International Trade Commission, speaking to ABC News: "These guys in the middle of a financial crisis are spending their time looking at prurient material on the Internet... It's reckless, and indicates a contempt for the taxpayer and the taxpayer's interest in monitoring financial markets."
  • 'To Be Fair, I Bet Working at the SEC Is Pretty Boring,' quips Jacob Sullum at Reason. He provides links to sites the SEC visited "so you can exercise proper SEC oversight."
  • This Actually Isn't That Out-of-the-Ordinary, writes Ed O'Keefe at The Washington Post:
The behavior violates government ethics rules (duh) -- but porn and feds is nothing new. Let's review a few other instances:

•One senior executive at the National Science Foundation spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected. The problems reportedly were so pervasive they diverted the agency's watchdog from its main mission.

•National Park Service employee John A. Latschar, who oversaw the Gettysburg National Military Park, used his office computer over a two-year period to search for and view more than 3,400 sexually explicit images. He was later reassigned to an unspecified desk job.

• Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, established a Web site that featured sexually explicit photos and video. He later acknowledged posting images, defended the content as "funny" (no, really) and said he thought the site was for his private storage. All of this while he was presiding over an obscenity trial. He later took the site down.