A watchdog group has filed a complaint against Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) with the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel accusing Vitter of violating the state’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers by soliciting prostitutes.
The complaint, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), comes in response to Vitter’s support for an investigation into ACORN, a liberal community-organizing group. Two employees at ACORN’s Baltimore, Md., branch were caught on tape allegedly offering advice to a pair posing as a pimp and prostitute on setting up a prostitution ring and evading the IRS. The tapes were revealed in mid-September.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has launched an investigation into any DOJ grants ACORN has received and whether the money was properly overseen. Last week the Senate and the House both passed bills aimed at preventing ACORN from receiving federal dollars. Vitter has been a vocal critic of ACORN since the damaging tapes surfaced.
In 2007, media reports revealed that Vitter was included in the so-called “D.C. Madam’s” list of client telephone numbers. The senator subsequently expressed deep regret for his actions. In addition, another Louisiana based-prostitution ring also claimed Vitter was a client in the mid-1990s.
CREW filed a complaint against Vittter with the Senate Ethics Committee, which dismissed the matter without action in September 2008.
Under Louisiana law, it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “commit a criminal act especially one that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”
“Sen. Vitter’s zeal to see ACORN criminally investigated for offering advice in setting up a prostitution ring reminded me he has yet to be held accountable for his own role in a prostitution ring,” Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said in a statement. “While ACORN’s conduct is indefensible, so is Sen. Vitter’s and what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Vitter spokesman Joel DiGrado fired back at CREW, arguing that Sloan is a former Democratic staffer who is trying to shift the focus away from ACORN’s misdeeds with this complaint. In the mid-1990s Sloan has served as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee’s crime subcommittee, chaired at the time by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“ACORN has been under investigation for a series of felony criminal offenses - most prominently voter fraud,” he said. “It’s no surprise that CREW, an organization run by a former Democratic Senate staffer, is trying do anything possible to shift the light off the fact that ACORN has stood hand in hand with the Democratic Party for a long time as it misused taxpayer dollars.”
Sloan responded that Vitter is trying to deflect attention from his criminal behavior by targeting ACORN.
"Sen. Vitter is right on one count: CREW does want to shift focus," she said. "This so-called 'family values' politician wants the public to ignore his record of criminal sexual encounters with prostitutes while he feigns outrage over ACORN’s admitted misdeeds (and my resume). Even in Washington, this level of hypocrisy is unparalleled – and that’s saying something."