by Sam Winston
A breakdown of the latest chapter in Senator David Vitter's prostitution scandal as it relates to the recent discovery that Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer was also involved in a prostitution ring. (The Legal, Jindal, Clinton/McCain, and Prostitution Questions below the fold)
1) The Political Question/Spitzer Could Use Vitter as a Possible Defense
Aside from the immediate similarities in the two scandals, there are those that are wondering whether the political alliances of the Justice Department made the difference in how the news broke. They note that after the D.C. Madame was arrested, leaks never made it out of the Justice Department about Vitter. It was Hustler Magazine that broke the story on Vitter after a reporter scanned phone records that the D.C. Madame herself released on the internet (out of fear of political manipulation she claimed). In the Spitzer case, the prostitution ring he was apparently involved with was broken up just one week ago by federal law enforcement. Spitzer was not named on the affidavit in court papers filed with the case but the New York Times, through a "law enforcement official and a person briefed on the investigation", identified Governor Spitzer's involvement and broke the story.
With the Justice Department having recently undergone their own controversy over political favoritism and partisan prosecutions of public officials via President Bush's former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and with Vitter being a Republican and Spitzer being a Democrat, some will indeed wonder. Whether the Justice Department knew that Senator Vitter was on the D.C. Madame's call list beforehand and more details about how Governor Spitzer was discovered (and the news leaked) from a routine tax inquiry will answer those questions. For Spitzer it may not matter since it seems like he has no Republican friends or Democratic ones either.
2) The Legal Question
Just as Vitter was able to duck the outrage and comparisons over fellow Republican Senator Larry Craig's sex scandal through a "legal" argument, he may possibly be able to do the same with the Spitzer comparison. It appears they may have Spitzer on more than just being a "John", because this prostitution ring transported woman across state lines. If so, Spitzer will probably resign and Vitter supporters can still claim he's not in the crosshairs for any crimes like Senator Craig and Governor Spitzer (the statute had run out on Vitter's discretions by the time they came to light). It still sounds weak and hypocritical but nonetheless still plausible to a certain extent.
3) The Jindal Connection
The Republican Governor's committee, of which Governor Jindal is a member, called for Spitzer's resignation seemingly unaware of the hypocritical position that puts Jindal in on his stance with Senator Vitter (for whom he said it was a "personal matter"). Click here for more details but Governor Jindal would be wise to address this.
4) The Presidential Campaign Connection
While the buzz has been about whether or not the Spitzer scandal will affect Hillary Clinton and her presidential bid (Spitzer having endorsed her and being a superdelegate from her home state), Senator David Vitter also recently endorsed John McCain if but to little fanfare. Neither will probably resonate too loudly given that both endorsements weren't terribly high profile and they now have a counter measure. Unless, however, the Obama campaign wants to play devil's advocate.
5) The Scandal and Who Cares List
In the end, Louisiana and its already tarnished name get dragged along in the lists of political sex scandals stories that are bouncing around. There are also of course those that wonder why all of this matters so much (like why is prostitution illegal, well besides Nevada an in several other regions in non-third world countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands etc). My guess is there is something compelling about the hypocrisy of those caught and the downfall from self-righteousness.