Senator's Number on 'Madam' Phone List

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the "D.C. Madam," making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in the high-profile case.

The statement containing Vitter's apology said his telephone number was included on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates dating from before he ran for the Senate in 2004.

The service's proprietor, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 51, faces federal charges of racketeering for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of homes and hotel rooms in the Washington area. Authorities say the business netted more than $2 million over 13 years beginning in 1993. Palfrey contends that her escort service was a legitimate business.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter, 46, said in a statement, which his spokesman, Joel DiGrado, confirmed to the Associated Press.

"Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling," Vitter continued. "Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Neither Palfrey nor her attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, could be reached for comment last night. Sibley told the Associated Press that his client posted the phone records of her escort service on the Internet yesterday, four days after a federal judge lifted a restraining order preventing their publication. The records were included in a series of files on a Web site devoted to Palfrey's legal defense fund.

"I'm stunned that someone would be apologizing for this already," Sibley said.

Vitter is in his first Senate term after serving six years in the House. During his Senate campaign, Vitter was accused by a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee of carrying on a lengthy affair with a prostitute in New Orleans's French Quarter.

In a radio interview, Vitter then called the allegation "absolutely and completely untrue" and dismissed it as "just crass Louisiana politics."

Vitter was the first senator to endorse former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for president and serves as the campaign's Southern regional chairman. A reliable conservative vote in the Senate, Vitter was among a small group of GOP lawmakers who sought to block an immigration overhaul from advancing last month.

Vitter and his wife, Wendy, a former prosecutor, have four children. On his Senate Web site, Vitter says he is committed to "advancing mainstream conservative principles" and notes that he and his wife are lectors at their hometown church.

Vitter attended Harvard University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He won a convincing victory in 2004, defeating two Democrats with a slim majority of the vote, to succeed John Breaux (D).

Palfrey, 51, titillated national media this spring by threatening to auction her list of clients' phone numbers to the highest bidder. She said she needed the money to pay legal expenses, but in May U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered Palfrey to keep the records to herself.

That move came after Palfrey and Sibley had turned over a sizable portion of the 10,000 phone records to ABC News. One client contacted by ABC reporters was Randall L. Tobias, a deputy secretary of state, who said he used Palfrey's escort service for massages, not for sex.

A day later, on April 27, Tobias resigned from the State Department, reigniting the media firestorm over Palfrey's records. That was seemingly snuffed out by Kessler's temporary restraining order two weeks later, but Kessler vacated her order on Thursday, clearing the way for Palfrey to post the records online.

Pamela Martin and Associates hired college-educated women in their 20s, sending them to male clients in the Washington area who, according to authorities, paid $275 to $300 per sexual encounter. Palfrey said that, so far as she knew, her employees and clients engaged in legal sex play, such as erotic role-playing.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company