The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint Thursday over charges that Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) had violated the chamber’s rules when he allegedly solicited a prostitute, but the panel did not refrain from scolding the Senator for his errant behavior.
According to a letter issued to Vitter, the committee determined that because Vitter’s alleged conduct occurred before his election to the Senate in 2004 and did not involve the “use of public office or status for improper purposes,” the committee will not pursue the matter.
"Based upon these specific grounds, the Committee has determined that it should not further exercise its jurisdiction over this matter at this time," the letter states.
Vitter’s office did not return an immediate call for comment.
The Louisiana Senator acknowledged in July 2007 that he was a client of the infamous “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who was found guilty in federal court last month of running an interstate prostitution ring. Palfrey subsequently committed suicide before she was to be sentenced to jail.
Vitter, whose phone number appeared in records maintained by Palfrey, was not charged with criminal conduct in the incident. Although he was listed as a potential witness in the federal court trial, Vitter was not called to testify.
He acknowledged in March 2007 the incident as “a very serious sin in my past.”
In its letter, the Ethics Committee also noted both Palfrey’s conviction as well as Vitter’s public statements about his behavior, effectively scolding the lawmaker for his alleged illicit activity.
“The Committee also wishes to make clear that this decision to dismiss this matter without prejudice should not be taken as personal approbation or acceptance by any of the Members of the Committee of the kind of conduct alleged in this matter,” the letter states. “In fact, if proven to be true, the Members of the Committee would find the alleged conduct of solicitation for prostitution to be reprehensible.”
The Ethics Committee noted it could reopen the complaint at any time in light of new allegations or evidence. The complaint was filed in July 2007 by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.