Thursday, July 19, 2007

CREW slaps Vitter with Ethics Charge

The Lafayette Daily Advertiser's website has an Gannett News story this afternoon reporting that the watchdog group Citizens for Reponsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed an ethics complaint against Senator David Vitter.

Here's CREW's press release:

19 Jul 2007 // Washington, D.C. – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Senate Ethics complaint against Senator David Vitter (R-LA) asking for an investigation into whether he violated the Senate Rules of Conduct by soliciting for prostitution.

On July 9, 2007, it was revealed that Sen. Vitter's telephone number was included in the so-called "D.C. Madam," Deborah Jeane Palfrey's, list of client telephone numbers. Sen. Vitter confirmed that he had sought Ms. Palfrey's services, saying in a statement, "this was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible."

Two other women also have alleged that Sen. Vitter engaged the services of prostitutes. According to Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam," Senator Vitter visited a New Orleans, Louisiana brothel several times in the mid-1990s and a woman who worked as a prostitute under the name of Wendy Cortez has claimed that several years ago, Senator Vitter was a regular client of hers.

Engaging the services of a prostitute violates both District of Columbia and Louisiana criminal law.

The Senate Ethics Manual provides that certain conduct may be improper even though it does not violate specific Senate rules or regulations. Such conduct has been characterized as "improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate." This rule is intended to protect the integrity and reputation of the Senate as a whole. The Ethics Manual explains that "improper conduct" is given meaning by considering "generally accepted standards of conduct, the letter and spirit of laws and Rules..."

Whether or not Sen. Vitter is ultimately adjudicated to have broken any criminal laws, the Senate may still discipline him for improper conduct as it has other members in the past.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today, "Senator Vitter's solicitation of at least one prostitute was not merely, as he has stated, 'a serious sin,' it was a violation of criminal law." Sloan continued, "The Senate Ethics Committee should commence an investigation into Senator Vitter's conduct and hold him accountable."

Gannett said Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate ethics committee, declined comment.

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