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`Larry Flynt Crusades Against Hypocrires in the Capital

WWW- [SF Chronicle]- The first victim of Hustler Magazine Publisher Larry Flynt’s most recent crusade, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana [picture], stepped forward last week, admitting a past adulterous affair. The sudden announcement, which was clearly rushed out to beat Flynt to the punch, portrayed the ordeal as old news. Nothing more than past actions he regretted, a mistake long-since reconciled and forgotten by both he and his wife.

But as the givens play out — the senator attempting to control the news cycle, the blogosphere digging up Vitter quotes about family values and strong marriages, and Flynt reigning over the airwaves admonishing Vitter for his hypocrisy — the larger story will be abundantly clear: Vitter will not be the last to fall.

Bigger still: that Congress may not be the lone branch of government dealing with Flynt-fueled scandal in the months to come.

Last month, I tagged along with Flynt as he took to the town — Washington, that is — just after the start of his latest smut campaign. Days before, the publisher had taken out a full-page ad in the Washington Post, offering up to $1 million for publishable proof of an illicit affair with a high-ranking government official.

For those immersed in district life, and those well-versed in the Clinton years, this may bring back memories of 1998. In October of that year, amidst the commotion of impeachment proceedings, Flynt took out similar full-page advertisements, offering — you guessed it — $1 million for publishable evidence of a high-level illicit affair.

The campaign led to the sudden resignation of speaker-elect Bob Livingston, and, many argue, the subsequent no vote in the Senate on the issue of impeachment. Ironically, Vitter won the seat vacated by Livingston’s rapid departure.

I talked to Flynt shortly after Vitter’s admission. I wondered whether he was bitter that Vitter had beaten him off the line. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going to have a field day with all the new material we’ve collected.

“I have never had so many promising leads from an ad,” he said. “The results have shocked a cynical old fellow like myself.”

It would be easy to think this was just another media game for Flynt, a man more at home around porn stars and high-stakes poker tables than inside congressional offices. Many on the political right consider his actions another dimension of partisanship: a man with too much money advancing liberal ideas by ruining individuals that have dedicated themselves to serving our country.

But talking to Flynt, one quickly sees that this is in no way a game for this man. This is a moral issue. Say what you will about Flynt’s business, his ethics on the given subject are pretty clear. Hypocrisy, Flynt explained, is the difference between misdemeanor and felony in his mind.

“I couldn’t care less what people do in private,” he said, “but if someone’s a public figure, and taking a position that’s contrary to the way they lead their private lives, people deserve to know.”

In terms of partisanship, he was also quite blunt. “I cut nobody no slack — I let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

Finally, I asked Flynt a question burning in the minds of so many D.C. insiders. I asked whether he’d be willing to say, for the record, whether he had any solid leads on ’08 presidential candidates.

He chuckled, “We definitely do.”

No matter how hard I pleaded, he wouldn’t budge. I pushed and begged and prodded, but there was no getting more out of Flynt.

“The worst thing I could do was be wrong. I have to hold myself to the same standard of the rest of the media — there’s a lot of people out there that would like to see me burn.”

And as long as that remains the case — that Flynt checks his leads as carefully as he has in the past, and only exposes those that stand on platforms that they themselves enjoy lying beneath — it’s hard to refute that this peddler of smut has a moral leg to stand on. “Look,” he said, “what I’m interested in is establishing standards.”

That is something we can all agree that this nation needs a little more of. Larry Flynt, the moral leader. Only in America.

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