AUGUST 21, 2008
The agency that regulates federal election financing is allowing a Republican legislator from Louisiana to use some campaign funds to pay legal costs associated with his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring.
Senator David Vitter has incurred more than $200,000 in legal bills, has spent $70,000 of his own money and wants to reimburse himself with cash sitting in his campaign coffers. While the Federal Election Commission (FEC) rejected the lawmaker’s plan to finance his defense entirely, it did approve using $31,000 of campaign funds to pay for legal expenses related to a Senate Ethics Committee investigation arising from his involvement with the prostitution ring that catered to Washington’s elite.
The Senate ethics panel eventually dropped the investigation even though Vitter admitted that he did in fact hire hookers from the service, calling it a “very serious sin in my past…” The woman who ran the service, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, best known as the D.C. Madam, was convicted in April of money laundering and racketeering for operating the $250-an-hour enterprise. Facing more than five decades in prison, she committed suicide while awaiting sentencing.
Vitter’s name appeared in her phone records and the lawmaker was subpoenaed as a witness, which he vigorously fought with high-priced attorneys. The FEC concluded that legal representation to quash the subpoenas was not related to the course of Vitter’s candidacy or performance of his duties as a U.S. senator. Therefore he could not use campaign money to pay for it.
As bizarre as it may sound, the commission allowed him to use the $31,000 in campaign funds to pay for legal expenses in the ethics probe because it was related to his status as an office holder.
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