Saturday, November 3, 2007

Can She Get a Witness!??!

Now that Republican Bobby Jindal has been elected governor, it will be interesting to see how long Louisiana Republicans who, after all, posed as the reform party in the current state elections, will allow the Vitter/Hookers melodrama to continue to play out.

The Times-Picayune (and others) reported on Saturday that Senator David Vitter has been subpoenaed to testify in the D.C. Madam trial that led to the eruption of a full-blown pay-to-play sex scandal for Vitter that apparently stretches all the way back to his days as a state legislator.

Here's how the T-P began its coverage:
WASHINGTON -- Rekindling a scandal Sen. David Vitter hoped had faded, the attorney for the "D.C. Madam" asked Friday for a subpoena to force the Louisiana Republican to testify about his involvement in what prosecutors say was a high-priced prostitution ring.

Montgomery Sibley said he had asked the clerk of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to issue a subpoena to Vitter to testify at a Nov. 28 hearing that could spill salacious details of the scandal that has captivated the nation's capital for more than a year.

Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the hearing to determine whether Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 50, can proceed with her breach-of-contract lawsuit against a woman she once employed as an escort. Palfrey said she signed contracts with all her escorts promising they wouldn't do anything illegal and that Paula Neble broke it by engaging in prostitution.
For those of you keeping score at home, Vitter responded to the news of the D.C. scandal on the day that Governor-elect Jindal was making his candidacy announcement swing across the state. Their New Orleans news conferences nearly overlapped. Candidate Jindal quickly abandoned Vitter even though the Senator had apparently been helpful in Jindal's election as Vitter's successor as congressman from the First District.

The Vitter scandal undermined the political offspring of the Senator and his wife Windy, the LCRM, whose fund-raising took a hit during the summer months after the pay-to-play scandal broke. Out-0f-state interests took up some of the slack, but most of the original Louisiana LCRM contributors have stayed away since the scandal broke. Two of the originals — Dieter Hugel and Mockler Beverage — recently returned to the fold, according to LCRM campaign finance reports.

The challenge that Vitter's problem present to Louisiana Republicans are difficult to overstate.

Start with the blatant hypocrisy that flows from Vitter's posturing as a family values Republican. Whoring is not exactly compatible with that. The fervor for the Jindal campaign may have temporarily subsumed whatever Republican outrage might exist in response to the Vitter scandal (and the fact that had Vitter resigned, a Democratic governor would have been able to name his replacement). But, with Governor-elect Jindal vowing to call a special session on ethics immediately after his inauguration, the image of the junior Senator on the witness stand testifying about his business dealings with an 'escort service' is hardly the kind of atmospherics the party and/or the new governor will want to have to deal with.

With Jindal in the Mansion, the embarrassment caused by Vitter's sexual proclivities will be all the harder for some in the party to defend because Republican Governor Jindal would name a replacement in the (unlikely) event that Vitter would choose to step down.

Then there is the little matter that Vitter's problems were well known to his biggest financial backers all the way back in the days of his 2004 run for the Senate. What does that say about the commitment of those folks to the family values platform they proclaimed with such vigor?

So, the next few weeks will be very interesting. It seems that the Vitter scandal is eating away at the Louisiana Republican Party's euphoria even as it celebrates strong gains on the statewide level.

Can the party claiming the mantel of reform and ethics live at least four more years with a United States Senator with a court-documented record of at least a business relationship with what prosecutors allege is a prostitution ring?

We're about to find out.

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