NEW ORLEANS -- In a bipartisan slap at both of Louisiana's U.S. senators, a government watchdog group named Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter to its annual list of "the Most Corrupt Members of Congress."
Neither senator is a stranger to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which released its latest list Wednesday. CREW continues to list Landrieu for her acceptance in 2001 of $30,000 from employees and others associated with Voyager Expanded Learning.
A Landrieu-sponsored earmark inserted days later by Landrieu in a $7.1 billion spending bill provided $2 million for use of a Voyager reading program in kindergarten and first-grade classes in the District of Columbia school district.
Landrieu has consistently denied wrongdoing and said the contributions did not influence her. Her office in 2008 released letters intended to show that Voyager was a highly touted and sought-after reading program, even before the November 2001 earmark. CREW has been critical of Landrieu on the issue since 2008, the last year she was up for re-election.
As for Vitter, the group said he has yet to be held accountable after his phone number appeared in 2007 among phone records of a prostitution ring. Although he admitted to a "very serious sin" committed years earlier after the 2007 scandal broke, Vitter has otherwise refused to discuss the issue. He has denied a relationship with a New Orleans prostitute who has said in interviews, also cited by CREW, that Vitter was a customer.
Last month, CREW asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate various allegations of wrongdoing by Vitter arising from his employment of an aide for two years after the aide was arrested for an attack on a girlfriend. CREW said Vitter publicly lied when he denied that the aide had been in charge of women's issues and complained that the aide twice traveled to Louisiana at taxpayer expense when he faced court dates in a drunk driving case.
Vitter campaign spokesman Luke Bolar dismissed the complaint as an effort by a "hack left-wing organization" to help Rep. Charlie Melancon, the Republican incumbent's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 2 election.
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan is a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington and has served as counsel to Democrats in Congress. However, CREW has a history of bipartisan criticism of Congress on ethics matters. Ten of the 26 people on its latest list are Democrats.
Being on the group's list so far doesn't appear to have been politically fatal to either Louisiana senator. Landrieu won re-election in 2008. Vitter backers point to several polls showing him with a strong lead over Melancon and 10 others on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The CREW report:
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