Well, the hue and cry over the transgressions of 5th District Congressman Vance McAllister appears to be finally fading to the back pages of the state’s newspapers.
With all the emotional maturity of a rutting high school sophomore, McAllister managed to attract the glare of a national spotlight that few freshmen in Congress manage—or desire.
McAllister was elected last October and sworn into office in November to fill the unexpired term of Republican Rodney Alexander. But despite his incredibly poor judgment, he nevertheless missed the chance to beat Democrat Donald Cazayoux’s Louisiana record for the shortest tenure in Congress.
Cazayoux was elected on May 3, 2008, to fill the unexpired term of Republican Richard Baker of Baton Rouge who callously left to head up a large hedge fund, in the process placing upon the State of Louisiana the financial burden of the necessity of holding a special election to name a successor for only six months at which time the winner would have run again. Cazayoux subsequently lost to Bill Cassidy who took office in January of 2009, giving Cazayoux only eight months in office. Assuming McAllister remains in office until his successor takes is sworn in next January, he will have served 14 months—almost twice as long as Cazayoux, who at least managed to leave office honorably and not in disgrace.
But as dumb as McAllister’s getting caught on camera deep kissing an aide in his Monroe office, it should pale in comparison to the deeds of the man who would be the next governor of Louisiana.
Because the act was captured on video and subsequently brought it into our living rooms in grainy black and white images, there was collective outrage and demands for his resignation from the upper echelons of the Louisiana Republican hierarchy, Gov. Bobby Jindal included.
He did, after all, kiss a woman who was not his wife, so off with his head!
But at the same time, we all know that U.S. Sen. David Vitter did a tad more than simply kiss a woman who was not his wife; he engaged in extra-marital sex with at least one prostitute—and most probably others, if their stories are to be believed, dating back to his days in the Louisiana Legislature. And why shouldn’t we believe them? With nothing to gain by lying about their exploits with the good senator, they certainly have as much credibility as Vitter.
Yet the Louisiana Republican establishment was strangely mute when it came to demanding that Vitter step down. Can you say two-faced, double-standard, duplicitous, hypocritical political opportunists?
Vitter, for his part, spent $127,000 in legal fees in successfully warding off efforts to force him to testify about his relationship with Debra Jean Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam. He even petitioned the Federal Election (gotta be care about that spelling) Commission to allow him to use campaign funds to pay for those legal efforts. Palfrey meanwhile, convicted of money laundering and racketeering, committed suicide.
Of course, we are acutely aware that the comparisons between McAllister’s crazy canoodling caper and Vitter’s hearty hooker habit have already been aired in abundance, so perhaps that’s enough said about the subject.
Instead, as our subject du jour, let’s discuss the conveniently all-but-forgotten Brent Furer.
Brent Furer was Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues (or maybe not, depending upon whom you choose to believe) who in 2008, violently turned upon his girlfriend when he discovered phone numbers for other men in her Blackberry, smashing her phone when she attempted to call 911. He then proceeded to hold her captive in his Capitol Hill apartment for 90 minutes, threatened to kill her, placed his hand over her mouth, threw her to the floor and cut her hand and chin with a knife. After he was arrested for the incident, it was learned that he was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant in Baton Rouge for drunk driving.
Vitter took firm and decisive action against his subordinate when he was arrested on charges of domestic violence. Coming down hard, he suspended Furer without pay for five whole days. Superior Court Judge Lee Satterfield meted out punishment almost as harsh: he handed down a suspended jail sentence of 180 days, dismissed the assault and weapons charges, ordered 40 hours of community service and treatment for drug and alcohol dependency, and gave Furer a “harsh warning.”
While the attack on his girlfriend occurred in 2008, it did not become public knowledge until ABC News broke the story in 2010. Vitter, the forceful advocate for women and an outspoken opponent of drunk driving, had allowed Furer to remain on his staff for more than two years until the story broke and only then did Furer resign on June 23, 2010.
It turned out that was not Furer’s first brush with the law. And while Vitter denied any knowledge of prior arrests, Furer, in 2003, following his conviction for drunken driving, performed community service under the supervision of a New Orleans pastor who also just happened to serve as Vitter’s regional director in Louisiana. That the upstanding senator was unaware of that arrest would seem to be quite incredulous, to say the least.
In fact, Vitter twice allowed Furer to travel to Louisiana on the taxpayers’ dime for court appearances in Baton Rouge to defend himself from the drunk driving charges, claiming that his travel to Louisiana was for official senate business. One of those trips just happened to coincide with his scheduled court appearance.
Prior to the 2008 incident with his girlfriend, Furer, an ex-Marine, already had three arrests for driving under the influence and once for cocaine possession. In one of those drunken driving episodes, in 2003, police pursued Furer’s swerving vehicle as they observed what appeared to be Furer fighting with a female passenger (again with the fighting with women? Some tough Marine.). He continued driving after she exited the vehicle and was finally pulled over. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was .132 percent, according to the arrest report—more than one and one-half times the legal limit of .08 percent for intoxication. Furer was “very verbally abusive toward the police,” the report said.
But the ugliest incident—the domestic violence incident with his girlfriend notwithstanding—also occurred the same year as his attack on his date. It was in late 2008 when Furer was en route to pick up medication from a Washington area pharmacy.
Furer, a veteran of the first Gulf War, became involved in a road rage incident with another former Marine, Gregory Blake. Furer chased Blake through Washington streets in their SUVs. During the chase, Furer struck a motorcyclist, throwing him to the pavement and fracturing his femur, according to a lawsuit pursuant to the incident. (Furer’s insurance company eventually settled out of court.)
When police arrived at the scene, Furer played the tired old Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am? card by flashing his Senate ID as he informed officers he worked for Sen. Vitter, apparently in the mistaken belief that congressional immunity extended to staffers.
“That guy should not be working for the U.S. government,” Blake said when he learned of Furer’s employment.
In a classic blame-the-messenger defense, retired Marine Gen. James E. Livingston said poor Furer witnessed “unspeakable tragedies” while serving in Kuwait and even went so far as to say the story of the incident with Blake was “clearly politically driven and it’s unfortunate that some are willing to ruin the reputation of a Marine veteran for a political story.”
Wow. Or backwards, wow. Nothing about the reputation of Blake, the other Marine veteran, General? Just how a retired Marine general uninvolved in the events managed to become part of the story remains unclear.
Gen. Livingston, however, wasn’t finished. “When faced with Brent’s troubles, Sen. Vitter could have chosen political expediency and allowed Brent to flounder on his own in a time of need,” he said. “Instead, he tried to allow Brent the best opportunity to seek help and get better while never downplaying the severity of the charges.”
How very noble of the junior senator from Louisiana.
Keep in mind that the road rage incident in which an innocent motorcyclist was struck and injured by Furer occurred after Furer had attacked his girlfriend, during which he asked her, according to the police report, “Do you want to die?” Still, Vitter kept Furer on his staff until ABC News broke the story more than two years later.
In fact, Vitter even offered an incredibly lame defense of the entire affair, claiming the story was inaccurate by denying that Furer worked on women’s issues in any way—as if that excused the physical attack on his girlfriend—even though records clearly showed that Vitter was lying through his teeth.
Several Beltway guides clearly identified Furer as the women’s issues point person in Vitter’s office. Moreover, Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said when she was in Washington immediately before the story about Furer and his girlfriend broke, she was personally informed that Furer was Vitter’s contact person on pending domestic violence legislation.
Vitter attempted to say (read: lie) that Tonya Newman and Nicole Hebert were the employees in his office who were assigned to women’s issues. Newman, however, was identified by Legistorm, one of those congressional staff guidebooks, as alternately Vitter’s Chief of Staff and Communications Director while moving between Vitter’s personal office and his Banking and Urban Affairs Committee office. Hebert, meanwhile, worked out of Vitter’s Lafayette, LA., office as a liaison on women’s issues—not as Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues in Washington.
So, in consideration of all the events described here, including Vitter’s oft-stated support of family values, women’s rights and his opposition to drunk driving, weighed against his flimsy explanations, we must keep asking two questions as we barrel headlong toward the 2015 gubernatorial election:
Can we really believe anything that Misogynist-in-Chief Vitter says?
And can we trust a state Republican organization headed by Jindal and State Party Chairman Roger Villere who scream for McAllister’s resignation while conveniently ignoring Vitter’s far more serious betrayal of the public trust? Not to defend his brain-dead lapse in judgment, but the moment Jindal and Villere opened their hypocritical mouths McAllister should have called a press conference and issued a statement along these lines:
“I shall resign from Congress precisely 30 seconds after Sen. Vitter resigns.”
The silence from Vitter’s sanctimonious enablers would have been deafening.