Forget Sen. Vitter’s Penis: Follow His Money

The mainstream media has been all over GOP Louisiana Senator David Vitter -- The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. Sex sells, so they’re selling it -- and doing a disservice to their readers and viewers.

It’s a story played over and over again in Congress (Wilbur Mills, anyone? Fanne Foxe?) A senator or member of Congress paints himself (or herself) as a vision of moral rectitude and gets caught with his pants down (or her skirt up). Literally.

So Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) paid for sex. Big deal. All this “sex sells” coverage may drive ratings, but it detracts readers and viewers from far more important issues. Politicians would rather have the press focused on their sexual peccadilloes than on their financial affairs while in service to their constituents.

Sen. Vitter’s “serious sin” has nothing to do with sex. It’s the sin far too many senators and members of Congress seem to commit with corporate abandon: “Give me money to get elected and I’ll make sure you go to the head of the line for federal cash.”

Sen. Vitter served three terms in the House before he won the 2004 Senate race against Democrat Chris John with 51 percent of the vote. He raised $7,192,566 for that race, of which $1,386,220 came from PACs and $4,980,125 from individuals.

Since 1998, Sen. Vitter has generated $12,354,936 in contributions to his House and Senate campaign committees.

In the years that Sen. Vitter has served in Congress (including his House terms), the federal government has awarded $18.6 billion in contracts to Louisiana -- of which $10.1 billion went to District 1, his home seat (now held by Rep. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal). Defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which says it currently employs more than 17,000 shipbuilding professionals, primarily in Louisiana and Mississippi, has received $4.3 billion in federal contracts during Sen. Vitter’s time in Congress. Over that time, Northrop has given Sen. Vitter $38,050 in campaign contributions.

McDermott International, an engineering and construction company with facilities in Morgan City and New Orleans, received $354 million in federal contracts. It gave Sen. Vitter $35,250 in campaign contributions.

Edison Chouest Offshore, an offshore vessel service company founded in Galliano, La., received about $66.6 million in federal contracts during Sen. Vitter’s service in Congress. The company is the largest campaign contributor to Sen. Vitter at $84,526.

BellSouth has received $141 million (not all in Louisiana) in federal contracts during Sen. Vitter’s time in Congress. BellSouth is Sen. Vitter’s third-largest campaign contributor at $59,050.

Bollinger Shipyards, which has facilities in Lockport, East New Orleans, St. Rose, Harvey and Morgan City, La., has received about $106 million in federal contracts. It has given Sen. Vitter $43,700 in campaign contributions.

Boh Brothers Construction, which says it’s Louisiana’s largest construction company, has given Sen. Vitter $48,400 in campaign contributions. This is the company whose Web site says: “Stopping the Surge/Boh Completes Flood Gate at the 17th Street Canal.”

C&C Technologies, a privately owned Lafayette, La., surveying and mapping company that operates worldwide, has given Sen. Vitter $36,900. C&C does projects for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sen. Vitter serves on the Committee on Environment and Public Works and its Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. Energy PACs gave him money. Duke Energy gave him $10,000 for his Senate campaign. Centerpoint Energy gave him $3,500. El Paso Corp., which owns North America's largest natural gas pipeline system, gave him $6,500. Entergy Corp., which seeks a revival of the nuclear power industry, gave him $7,000. Overall, the oil and gas industries have given him $459,085 and the electric utility industry $110,666.

Sen. Vitter serves on the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety. Over his congressional career, the insurance industry has given him $196,376. (See his top industry campaign donors here.)

Of the 79 bills he has filed on the Senate in his brief career thus far, 16 have co-sponsors. (See them here; select “Vitter” at “Select a Senator.”)

During Sen. Vitter’s time in Congress, his reported personal assets have doubled. In his 1999 financial disclosure statement, he reported assets (stocks, bonds, savings) of between $126,000 and $715,000.

His 2006 financial disclosure statement shows that he has assets of between $1.4 million and $3.9 million. (Only a range of value is indicated on these required disclosures.)

An 2004 unflattering portrait of Sen. Vitter by Mary Jacoby at Salon calls him “[s]harp-edged and uncompromising, but enormously talented at self-promotion” and “duplicitous.” When it comes to sex in Washington, forget the penis. Keep your eyes on the pocketbook. That’s where the real action is.


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