Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Senator Named ‘Most Corrupt’ Now Campaigning On Ethics Reform


In his campaign to be Louisiana’s next governor, Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter is promising to “root out corruption and cronyism.” But his own record does not align with his current rhetoric.
Vitter, who will face state representative John Bel Edwards (D) in the November 21 runoff, claims that Louisiana is awash with “criminal investigations, sweetheart deals, [and] ethics violations.” He claims to be a “tireless champion for good government” and vows that, as governor, he would “will have a zero tolerance policy towards corruption and cronyism.”
The first item on his list of proposals is to “amend the ethics law to prohibit politicians from using campaign funds for personal perks like golf memberships and sports season tickets, or to pay immediate family members.” This item mirrors federal legislation he has offered repeatedly in the Senate.
But Family Affiair, a 2014 report by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), faulted Vitter for engaging in almost identical behavior.
“Sen. Vitter used funds from his leadership PAC to pay for a family outing and paid a cousin with campaign funds, leading CREW to include him in Family Affair, a look at how senators and their family members profit from their official positions,” the watchdog found.
It alleged that “In July 2013, Sen. Vitter’s leadership PAC reported paying the Baltimore Orioles $212 for game tickets, and the senator later posted on his Facebook page that his two daughters and his son visited Washington, D.C., and had ‘lots of fun — staff barbecue party, Orioles game and more.'” It also noted that “Sen. Vitter’s campaign also paid his cousin, Jim St. Raymond, more than $19,000 over the 2010 and 2012 election cycles for campaign strategy and direct mail services.” Technically a cousin would not violate Vitter’s proposed “immediate family” standard and single-game tickets would not quality as “season tickets.”
Vitter was cited by CREW on its 2007, 2011, and 2012 “Most Corrupt” Members of Congress Lists. These reports note that he was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for actions that undermined a “basic principal of government service,” and that he likely violated state prostitution laws.
Vitter’s opponent is currently running an ad suggesting that Vitter “chose prostitutes” over being present for a vote honoring soldiers killed in action. Vitter released a spot on Monday suggesting that his prostitution scandal taught him how to help Louisiana find redemption from its current “hard times.”
Louisiana, which not long ago claimed to be the “gold standard” for state ethics, received an “F” in the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 State Integrity Index, released on Sunday.
The Vitter campaign did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about Vitter’s ethics record.

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