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Senator's Link to 'D.C. Madam' Exposed

By CHARLES BABINGTON
The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 10, 2007; 11:00 PM

WASHINGTON -- Louisiana Sen. David Vitter said he had sinned and was sorry, hours after Hustler magazine told him his telephone number was among those disclosed by the "D.C. Madam."

The first-term Republican senator declined interview requests Tuesday, and he made no public appearances in the Capitol. The night before, he'd made a startling confession in an e-mail to The Associated Press:

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling."

Vitter, 46, and his wife, Wendy, live in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie with their four children.

He recently played a prominent role in derailing an immigration bill backed by President Bush, and he is Southern regional campaign chairman for Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid.

Vitter's statement said his number was on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates before he ran for the Senate in 2004. Federal prosecutors have accused Deborah Jeane Palfrey of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends that her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legitimate business offering sexual fantasies.

Palfrey's lawyer, Montgomery Blair Sibley, said in an interview that the call from Vitter's number to the escort service was made Feb. 27, 2001.

Vitter, a Harvard University graduate and Rhodes scholar, spent six years in the House _ beginning in January 1999 _ before being elected to the Senate.

Sibley confirmed that author Dan Moldea, who is writing a book with Palfrey, discovered Vitter's number in Palfrey's phone records, which she has publicly released. In an interview Tuesday, Moldea said he called Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, for whom Moldea has done consulting work. Moldea said a Hustler editor called Vitter's office late Monday afternoon.

In June, Flynt took out an ad in The Washington Post offering $1 million to anyone who could show he or she had engaged in a sexual encounter with a member of Congress "or a high-ranking government official." In a statement Tuesday, Hustler said Vitter's statement was "the result of a multi-pronged investigation launched and run by Larry Flynt."

Vincent Bruno, a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, said Tuesday that Vitter should resign "for his own good, the good of the party and the good of his family."

In 2004, Bruno accused Vitter of having an affair with a New Orleans prostitute. In a radio interview at the time, Vitter called the allegation "absolutely and completely untrue," and his supporters said Bruno was conducting a political vendetta.

On Tuesday, Jeanette Maier, a former madam, told the AP that Vitter had been a customer of her New Orleans brothel. She pleaded guilty in 2002 to running the illegal establishment.

Vitter's office did not respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment on the latest allegation.

In Washington Tuesday, several Republican colleagues rallied to Vitter's side.

"It's really an issue between he and his family and God, and that has been dealt with, thankfully," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "He's a very good friend. He's a great legislator. So certainly I accept his apology, and hopefully it won't have any effect on his service here."

Asked if the matter might undermine Vitter's reputation as a social conservative, DeMint replied, "Yeah, that's part of being in leadership. If you fail to live up to standards you set for yourself, then obviously that hurts. That's what all of us fear most, that we're going to discredit ourselves and no longer be effective."

"We all think that we're not vulnerable to something like that happening," DeMint said, "but the fact is this can be a very lonely and isolating place to be away from your family. So I'm certainly not going to judge him because I don't want that kind of pressure on me."

In 2000, Wendy Vitter told Newhouse News Service she could not be as forgiving as Livingston's wife or Hillary Clinton if her husband were unfaithful.

"I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary," she said. "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

Lorena Bobbitt, in a 1993 case that drew worldwide attention, cut off her sleeping husband's penis after an argument.

Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, issued a statement Tuesday saying she was "disappointed" over Vitter's revelation and hoped it wouldn't hurt the state's efforts to secure federal funding for rebuilding homes damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Louisiana's other U.S. senator, Democrat Mary Landrieu, declined to comment on the Vitter matter.

Until Vitter's admission, the most prominent client of Palfrey's to emerge was senior State Department official Randall Tobias, who resigned from his post in April after ABC News confronted him about his use of the service.

Palfrey's Web site contains several pages of phone records, but no names, dating from August 1994 to August 2006. Palfrey wrote on the Web site that she believed a disk containing the records had been pirated, and said she was posting the records "to thwart any possible distorted version and to ensure the integrity of the information."

Palfrey pleaded guilty to pimping charges in 1991 on separate charges and was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison.

Moldea was the lead investigator on Flynt's probe in 1998-99 of lawmakers who were investigating President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. They included Rep. Robert Livingston, R-La., who stepped aside days before he was expected to become House speaker replacing Newt Gingrich. Livingston, whose House seat was later filled by Vitter, revealed that he, too, had an extramarital affair.

Sibley, Palfrey's lawyer, said a "major news organization" aware of Moldea's latest findings had called Vitter's office Monday morning seeking comment on the call to Palfrey's company. He declined to identify the print news organization but said it was not Hustler. Vitter's office issued his statement late Monday in an e-mail to the AP bureau in New Orleans.

___

Associated Press writers Cain Burdeau in New Orleans and Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press