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Senator Vitter Madam Hopped

New Orleans – Sen. David Vitter, who publicly apologized after being linked to an alleged prostitution ring in Washington, D.C., was once a client of a high-priced New Orleans brothel, a former madam said Tuesday.

Saying he was a “decent man” who appeared to be in need of company when he visited the brothel, Jeanette Maier [pictured] added unexpected details to a scandal enveloping the first-term Republican.

“As far as the girls coming out after seeing David, all they had was nice things to say. It wasn’t all about sex. In fact, he just wanted to have somebody listen to him, you know. And I said his wife must not be listening,” Maier said.

Maier pleaded guilty to running the Canal Street brothel in 2002. Vitter won his seat in the U.S Senate in 2004.

“It wasn’t all about dirty, raunchy, crazy sex,” Maier said. “It was a bunch of guys coming over hanging out with the girls and having a few cocktails, and men being men.”

Maier said she supports Vitter and believes he can be “the backbone to bringing this city back together” since Hurricane Katrina.

“He is a decent guy. He’s not a freak. He’s not using drugs. He’s not using taxpayers money to buy hookers or drugs or anything like that. He’s just a decent, normal guy,” she said.

Federal prosecutors unveiled the existence of the $300-an-hour brothel in April 2002. It was linked to similar operations in other U.S. cities. Maier was among 17 defendants who pleaded guilty in the investigation. With all the guilty pleas, there never was a trial, and that kept under wraps a list of customers that reportedly included prominent lawyers, doctors and business professionals.

Also Tuesday, details resurfaced about an allegation that Vitter paid weekly visits to a prostitute in the French Quarter in the late 1990s. The allegations were investigated by a Republican rival when Vitter ran for a House seat in Congress in 1999. The seat had been vacated by Robert Livingston, who resigned after disclosure of marital indiscretions.

Vincent Bruno, a member of the state Republican Party’s central committee, said Tuesday that he had confirmed the allegations at the time while working for the campaign of David Treen, a former Louisiana governor running against Vitter.

The allegations never surfaced in the congressional campaign, but The Louisiana Weekly, a New Orleans newspaper, wrote about them in 2002 and 2004. Vitter denied the accusations. The prostitute never spoke publicly about the alleged affair, which was largely ignored by mainstream news organizations.

“She said she was having a paid affair often on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Dauphine and Dumaine,” Bruno said. “It’s very sleazy, and it’s illegal. But, OK, it doesn’t apply to senators. They’re an elite group.”

Vitter’s office did not respond to calls for comment on the latest allegations.

He had declined interview requests throughout the day Tuesday, and made no public appearances in the Capitol. The night before, he’d made a startling confession about his connection to the so-called D.C. Madame in an e-mail to The Associated Press:

“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling.”

Vitter’s statement said his telephone number was on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates, an escort service, before he ran for the Senate in 2004. Federal prosecutors have accused Deborah Jeane Palfrey of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends that her escort service was a legitimate business offering sexual fantasies.

Vitter, 46, and his wife, Wendy, live in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie with their four children.

Vitter recently played a prominent role in derailing an immigration bill backed by President Bush. He also is a key supporter of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential bid, serving as regional campaign chairman for the South.

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