From the New York Times
July 11, 2007
A Senator’s Moral High Ground Gets a Little Shaky
By ADAM NOSSITER
NEW ORLEANS, July 10 — From the beginning of his political career 16 years ago, Senator David Vitter has been known for efforts to plant himself on the moral high ground, challenging the ethics of other Louisiana politicians, decrying same-sex marriage and depicting himself as a clean-as-a-whistle champion of family values.
“I’m a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history,” Mr. Vitter, a 46-year-old Republican, wrote in a letter last year to The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans daily.
That self-created image, a political winner here since 1991, when Mr. Vitter joined the Louisiana House, took a tumble Monday with the disclosure that his phone number was among those on a list of client numbers kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington.
Mr. Vitter admitted Monday night to a “very serious sin in my past,” and talk radio and coffee shops here buzzed all day Tuesday with the front-page news, even as the senator remained out of sight. But the fallout was far bigger than local: his admission is also a blow to the presidential campaign of Rudolph W. Giuliani, for whom he is Southern campaign chairman.
Mr. Vitter, an uncompromising foe of abortion, same-sex marriage and the immigration compromise that died in the Senate in June, was supposed to be Mr. Giuliani’s ambassador to a region with large numbers of social conservatives suspicious of the candidate’s moderate views. His viability in that role is now in doubt with his acknowledgment that his number was already in the phone records of Pamela Martin & Associates before he ran for the Senate in 2004.
The woman at the head of the company, Ms. Palfrey, contends that it was a legitimate escort service before being shut down last year. Federal prosecutors say it was a prostitution ring, and a State Department official, Randall L. Tobias, resigned in April with the disclosure that he had been a client.