(c) by Mary Griggs
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund are pressuring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), chairwoman of the Senate Ethics Committee, to either drop an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) or investigate the allegations surrounding Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana).
They argues the Ethics Committee has singled out Craig because he allegedly solicited gay sex but has ignored allegations of impropriety involving Vitter because Vitter’s alleged behavior was heterosexual. Instead of a single standard of ethics that all Senators are held to, this situation is a witch hunt motivated by the homophobia of GOP Senate leaders.
“We are writing to state the inherent contradiction between your treatment of allegations of ethical misconduct by Senator Larry Craig and Senator David Vitter and to insist that you open an investigation into Sen. Vitter’s conduct,” wrote Matt Foreman, vice chairman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “There is no explanation for the diametrically opposed responses to these two situations, other than hypocrisy tinged by homophobia,” the letter said.
The Select Committee on Ethics quickly launched an investigation of Craig once it came to light in late August that he had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after falling prey to a gay sex sting in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. An undercover police officer accused Craig of swiping his hand and sliding his foot beyond a bathroom stall divider in a ritual of coded solicitation.
Craig said he was merely picking up a piece of paper from the ground and naturally has a “wide stance.” Craig said he pleaded guilty to avoid public exposure.
But there has been no evidence the committee has taken up a probe of Vitter, even though the Louisiana lawmaker’s phone number was found in the records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the infamous D.C. Madam, whom federal prosecutors have accused of running a prostitution ring in the nation’s capital. Vitter apologized for his association with Palfrey’s escort service but has refused to provide details.
Since then, allegations have surfaced that Vitter consorted with prostitutes in New Orleans. Jeanette Maier, who was convicted in 2002 for running a brothel, has claimed Vitter was a client.
There is no evidence that GOP leaders or the ethics committee has taken any action against Vitter. Instead, his colleagues gave him a standing ovation after he apologized during a luncheon meeting of the Senate Republican Conference.
Gay rights leaders say the disparate treatment is evidence of a double standard.
“Certainly there’s a double standard because everyone’s assumption is they are dealing with one [lawmaker’s transgression] because it’s homosexual sex and not the other’s because it’s heterosexual sex,” said Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, in reference to the ethics committee.
The ethics committee has not appeared to move against Vitter despite a complaint filed in July by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning ethics watchdog group.
Naomi Seligman Steiner, CREW’s spokeswoman, said, “What is shocking is that [Ethics] moved so quickly and so publicly with Craig, so it clearly is a double standard,” she said. “The problem with the ethics committee not starting an investigation is that we don’t know all the facts. We’re not really getting to the bottom of it and why Vitter’s being protected.”