By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was cleared yesterday of any ethical misconduct for his association with prostitutes from the escort service run by the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam" who was convicted of running a call-girl ring.
The Senate ethics committee dismissed a complaint against Vitter "without prejudice," meaning he received no formal punishment or reprimand.
The committee, in its two-page letter, cited the conservative senator's admission last July of committing a "very serious sin" after revelations that his phone number was on the list of numbers connected to Pamela Martin & Associates, the prostitution ring that Palfrey operated. Palfrey killed herself last week rather than serve time in prison.
In its ruling, the panel said it could not punish Vitter because his association with the escort service occurred before he joined the Senate in 2005.
"The conduct at issue occurred before your Senate candidacy and service . . . the conduct at issue did not result in your being charged criminally . . . the conduct at issue did not involve use of public office or status for improper purposes," the committee wrote in a letter signed by all six senators.
Elected to the House in 1999, Vitter cannot be investigated by its ethics committee because it has no jurisdiction now that he is a senator.
The Senate panel said that its dismissal should not be taken as a "personal approbation" of soliciting prostitution. "If proven to be true, the members of this committee would find the alleged conduct of solicitation for prostitution to be reprehensible," the letter stated.
Since Vitter's brief public admission of a "sin," he has stayed silent on the Palfrey case. During the trial federal prosecutors did not call to the stand Vitter or other high-profile clients, which included Randall Tobias, the former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Vitter has denied allegations reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he had an association with a prostitute in his home town in the late 1990s.
Vitter's staff did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.