Diaper Dave wants to use his campaign money to pay his legal fees

On the 4th of July weekend this story hits the airwaves – how convenient that it appears while everyone is off and not turned on to the media – courtesy of the Times Picayune

WASHINGTON — Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is asking the Federal Election Commission whether he can use campaign money to pay fees related to legal issues and bad publicity he confronted after being linked to a prostitution ring. The letter from a Vitter attorney mentions $207,177.50 in costs, mostly legal fees, $70,000 of which the senator already has paid with his own money. The letter indicates that some of the money relates to legal representation before the Senate Ethics Committee that is “not the subject” of the request to the FEC.

As of March 31, Vitter listed $1.6 million in cash on hand in his campaign account. His office declined to comment on the FEC request. In the letter Thursday to the FEC, Washington lawyer Jan Witold Baran wrote that the bills came about after Vitter’s phone number appeared on the client list of an escort service operated by Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Baran said Palfrey tried to generate publicity by “targeting her subpoenas to well-known public officials” such as Vitter and a deputy U.S. secretary of state.

“To this end, Ms. Palfrey was wildly successful, ” Baran wrote. “Even though the senator never testified (at her trial or in a related civil case), a Google search conducted on June 12, 2008, of ‘David Vitter Deborah Palfrey’ produced 79,200 hits.” By contrast, he said, similar searches for Palfrey and two witnesses who “actually testified” at her criminal trial, produced 1,230 and 939 hits, respectively.
Baran said the fees involved legal representation, including help with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, and advice on how to deal with news coverage. Palfrey, who was convicted April 15 of money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy, committed suicide two weeks later. In his letter to the commission, Baran said Vitter retained legal assistance in April 2007, when the media began reviewing Palfrey’s phone list. Three months later, after a media inquiry, Vitter held a news conference and apologized for “a very serious sin.”

Baran noted that the Federal Election Commission has traditionally approved expenditures for elected officials connected to “their campaigns for federal office, their duties as federal officeholders, ” as long as they are not for personal use. Were it not for Vitter’s position in the Senate, Baran said, Palfrey wouldn’t have tried to subpoena him for court appearances, nor would he be subject to a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee or intensive news media coverage. The Senate Ethics Committee decided to take no action against Vitter because his involvement with the escort service occurred between 1999 and 2001, when he was a member of the House.

Baran said the FEC allowed former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey to use leftover campaign money on fees relating to questions about his military service in Vietnam because the issues were raised as a direct result of his elected office. Vitter’s situation is similar, Baran said. Baran said Vitter is seeking reimbursement for expenses related to “monitoring the (Palfrey) case and quashing subpoenas, assisting in the defense of an Ethics Committee complaint, or advising Sen. Vitter in connection with managing press attention and public communications.” He said the expenses “are the direct result of the senator holding office.”

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~ by maringouin on Friday, July 4, 2008.

One Response to “Diaper Dave wants to use his campaign money to pay his legal fees”

  1. “Were it not for Vitter’s position in the Senate, Baran said, Palfrey wouldn’t have tried to subpoena him for court appearances”
    That’s about like putting a 400 pound woman in speedos – it’s a hell of a stretch.

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