David Vitter
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2017
Preceded byJohn Breaux
Succeeded byJohn N. Kennedy
Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – January 3, 2017
Preceded byMaria Cantwell
Succeeded byJim Risch
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 1st district
In office
May 29, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Preceded byBob Livingston
Succeeded byBobby Jindal
Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives
from the 81st district
In office
Preceded byDavid Duke
Succeeded byJennifer Sneed Heebe
Personal details
David Bruce Vitter

(1961-05-03) May 3, 1961 (age 61)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1990)
RelationsJeffrey Vitter (brother)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Magdalen College, Oxford (BA)
Tulane University (JD)

David Bruce Vitter (born May 3, 1961) is an American lobbyist, lawyer, and politician who served as United States Senator for Louisiana from 2005 to 2017.

A Republican, Vitter served in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999. He then represented Louisiana's 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2005.

Vitter was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was the first Republican to represent Louisiana in the Senate since the Reconstruction Era, and the first ever Republican to be popularly elected. In 2007, Vitter admitted to and apologized for past involvement with a Washington, D.C. escort service. In 2010, Vitter won a second Senate term by defeating Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Melançon.

Vitter unsuccessfully ran for governor to succeed the term-limited Bobby Jindal in the 2015 gubernatorial election. He lost the general election to Democrat John Bel Edwards. While conceding defeat to Edwards, Vitter announced that he would not seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2016 and would retire from office at the completion of his term. Following the conclusion of his second Senate term, Vitter became a lobbyist.

Early life and education

David Vitter and his family with Vice President Dick Cheney
David Vitter and his family with Vice President Dick Cheney

David Bruce Vitter[1] was born on May 3, 1961[2] in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the son of Audrey Malvina (née St. Raymond) and Albert Leopold Vitter. Vitter graduated in 1979 from De La Salle High School in New Orleans.[3] While a student at De La Salle, Vitter participated in the Close Up Washington civic education program. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College in 1983; a second B.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1985, as a Rhodes Scholar; and a Juris Doctor degree in 1988 from the Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. He was a practicing lawyer,[4][5] and adjunct law professor at Tulane and Loyola University New Orleans.[5]

Vitter and his wife Wendy, a former prosecutor,[6][7] have three daughters, Sophie, Lise, and Airey, and a son, Jack. Vitter's brother Jeffrey is a notable computer scientist who has served as chancellor of the University of Mississippi from January 2016 to January 2019.

Early political career

Louisiana House of Representatives

Vitter was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999. As a freshman representative, he filed two complaints against Governor Edwin W. Edwards before the Louisiana Ethics Board. One questioned the financing of a trip Edwards took to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he attended an Evander Holyfield fight and gambled at Caesars Palace. The other questioned the involvement of Edwards' children in riverboat casinos.[8]

Vitter has argued for ethics reform and term limits since he was in the Louisiana Legislature in the early 1990s.[9] As a Louisiana state legislator, Vitter successfully pushed through a term limits amendment to the state constitution to oust the largely Democratic legislature.[10][11][12][13] The first election legislators affected by the reform occurred in 2007.[14] In order to leverage the term limits advantage in that election, Vitter formed a Political Action Committee with the goal of winning a legislative Republican majority.[15][16] While the Republicans saw gains, the Democrats maintained majority control.[13]

Vitter opposed gambling during his tenure in the Louisiana House.[17]

United States House of Representatives

Vitter won a special election to Louisiana's 1st congressional district in 1999, succeeding Republican U.S. Representative Bob Livingston, who resigned after disclosure that he had committed adultery. In the initial vote on May 1, 1999,[18] former Congressman and Governor David C. Treen finished first with 36,719 votes (25 percent). Vitter was second, with 31,741 (22 percent), and white nationalist David Duke finished third with 28,055 votes (19 percent). Monica L. Monica, a Republican ophthalmologist, had 16 percent; State Representative Bill Strain, a conservative Democrat, finished fifth with 11 percent; and Rob Couhig, a Republican lawyer and the owner of New Orleans's minor league baseball team, garnered 6 percent.[19] In the runoff, Vitter defeated Treen 51–49 percent.[20]

In 2000 and 2002, Vitter was re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote in what had become a safe Republican district.[20]

In 2001, Vitter co-authored legislation to restrict the number of physicians allowed to prescribe RU-486, a drug used in medical abortions. The bill died in committee.[21][22]

In 2003, Vitter proposed to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.[23] In 2004, he said, "This is a real outrage. The Hollywood left is redefining the most basic institution in human history...We need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts values."[24]

2003 gubernatorial election

In 2002, Vitter was preparing to run for governor in 2003, with the incumbent, Republican Mike Foster, prevented by term limits from running again. But in June 2002, shortly before the Louisiana Weekly reported on a claim from Vincent Bruno, a campaign worker for Treen in 1999, about Vitter's alleged relationship with a prostitute, Vitter dropped out of the governor's race,[25] saying he and his wife were dealing with marital problems.

Bruno said on a New Orleans-based radio show that he had been told by a prostitute that she had interactions with Vitter. However, Treen and his campaign decided to not publicize this information during the election.[26]

United States Senate

2004 election

Main article: 2004 United States Senate election in Louisiana

In 2004, Vitter ran to replace Democrat John Breaux in the U.S. Senate. Former state Senator Daniel Wesley Richey, a Baton Rouge political consultant, directed Vitter's grassroots organization in the race, with assistance from Richey's longtime ally, former state Representative Louis E. "Woody" Jenkins of Baton Rouge, himself a defeated U.S. Senate candidate in 1978, 1980, and 1996.

During the campaign, Vitter was accused by a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee of having had a lengthy affair with a prostitute in New Orleans. Vitter responded that the allegation was "absolutely and completely untrue" and that it was "just crass Louisiana politics."[6]

On November 2, 2004, Vitter won the jungle primary, garnering a majority of the vote, while the rest of the vote was mostly split among the Democratic contenders.

Vitter was the first Republican in Louisiana to be popularly elected as a U.S. Senator. The previous Republican Senator, William Pitt Kellogg, was chosen by the state legislature in 1876, in accordance with the process used before the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution went into effect in 1914.[27]

State Representative Mike Futrell of Baton Rouge resigned early in 2005 to become Vitter's state director. Futrell remained in the position until 2008, when he was engaged in East Baton Rouge Parish municipal/parish government.[28]

2010 election

Main article: 2010 United States Senate election in Louisiana

Vitter yard sign (2010)
Vitter yard sign (2010)

Vitter began fundraising for his 2010 reelection run in December 2008.[29] He raised $731,000 in the first quarter of 2009 and $2.5 million for his 2010 campaign.[30] He had wide leads against potential Democratic opponents in aggregate general election polling.[31][32] He faced intraparty opposition from Chet D. Traylor of Monroe, a former associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, in the August 28 Republican primary election and defeated him.

He faced the Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Melançon of Napoleonville in the November 2 general election. State Representative Ernest Wooton of Belle Chasse in Plaquemines Parish, an Independent, also ran.[33] On Nov 4, 2010, Vitter was re-elected as Louisiana Senator, defeating his Democratic rival, Melancon. Vitter got 715,304 votes while Melancon got 476,423 votes. Vitter received about 57% of the total vote while Melancon got 38%. The Independent candidate Wooton finished with 8,167 votes, or 1 percent of the total cast.


Vitter has identified himself as a political conservative throughout his political career. His legislative agenda includes positions ranging from anti-abortion to pro-gun rights while legislating against gambling, same-sex marriage, civil unions, federal funding for abortion providers, increases in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the United Nations, and amnesty for America's illegal immigrants. Vitter's stated positions include a balanced budget constitutional amendment,[34] abolishing the federal and state estate tax,[35] increasing local police forces,[36] and an assortment of health care, tax and national defense reforms.[37][better source needed]

After conceding defeat to John Bel Edwards in the 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election, Vitter announced that he would not seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2016 and would retire from office at the completion of his term.[38]


In October 2007, Vitter introduced an amendment[39] barring all federal public funds to health care providers and Planned Parenthood that provide services that include abortion. Federal law bars any funding to directly finance elective abortions in accordance with the Hyde amendment. Vitter argued that the funds are used for overhead costs that benefit the abortion services. The amendment failed to pass.[40][41] Following the rejection, Vitter and others urged the Senate to pass a similar bill introduced by Vitter in January 2007. The bill failed to pass.[42]

In January 2008, Vitter proposed an amendment to prohibit the funding of abortions with Indian Health Service funds except in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is at risk.[43] The amendment would have held future presidential administrations to an executive principle first crafted in 1982 by the Ronald Reagan White House.[44] Vitter's amendment passed the Senate but later was stalled in the House.[45]

Later that year, Vitter co-sponsored the Pregnant Women Health and Safety Act which – along with other oversight regulations – required doctors performing abortions to have the authority granted by a nearby hospital to admit patients. The bill was never reported to committee.[46][47]

Abstinence education

Vitter advocated abstinence-only sex education, emphasizing abstinence over sex education that includes information about birth control, drawing criticism from Planned Parenthood.[48] He said, "Abstinence education is a public health strategy focused on risk avoidance that aims to help young people avoid exposure to harm...by teaching teenagers that saving sex until marriage and remaining faithful afterwards is the best choice for health and happiness."[49]

Automotive industry bailout

Vitter was one of 35 Senators to vote against the Big 3 Bailout bill.[50] The financial bailout package was for GM, Chrysler, and Ford, but failed to pass on December 11, 2008. During the Senate debate Vitter referred to the approach of giving the automotive industry a financial package before they restructured as "ass-backwards".[51] He soon apologized for the phrasing of the comment, which did not appear in the Congressional Record.[52]

BP Horizon oil spill

In response to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill at an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico threatening the coast of Louisiana, Vitter introduced legislation along with Jeff Sessions of Alabama to increase the liability cap of an oil company from $75 million to its most recent annual profits (or $150 million if greater).[53] In the case of BP, the owner of the oil lease, its liability would be $20 billion.[54] Vitter later introduced an amendment that would remove the cap entirely for this particular spill.[53] Competing Democratic proposals would have raised the liability to $10 billion regardless of profits or removed the cap altogether.[53] Sessions argued that large caps unrelated to company profits would harm smaller companies.[54]

Chemical safety

In May 2013, Vitter introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, which would have regulated the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. The bill would have given additional authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate chemicals and streamline the patchwork of state laws on chemicals under federal authority.[55][56]

Child protection

In April 2008, Vitter introduced an amendment to continue funding the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act which was excluded from the 2008/2009 budget. The federal program maintains a national sex offender registry, provides resources for tracking down unregistered sex offenders and increases penalties for the sexual assault of children. His amendment received bipartisan support.[57][58]

Children's health insurance program

In September 2007, Vitter opposed an increase of $35 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the national program to provide health care for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance. He said he preferred that private health insurance provide the needed care and deemed the bill as "Hillarycare", a reference to the 1993 Clinton health care plan created by Hillary Clinton which proposed universal health care.[59]

Ethics and term limits

Vitter refused to pledge to a voluntary term limit when running for the U.S. Congress in 1999. His opponent characterized this stance as hypocritical, and Vitter countered that unless it were universally applied, the loss of seniority would disadvantage his district.[10][60] As a Senator, he has proposed term limit constitutional amendments for members of Congress three times.[61][62][63] Vitter eventually decided to retire from the Senate in 2016 after serving two terms.

In 2007, in response to lobbying scandals involving, among others, Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham, Congress passed a lobbying and ethics reform package to which Vitter proposed a package of five amendments.[64][65][66][67] The Senate approved three that limited which legislators' spouses could lobby the Senate,[68] created criminal penalties for legislators and executive branch officials who falsify financial reports,[69] and doubled the penalties for lobbyists who failed to comply with disclosure requirements.[70] The Senate rejected prohibiting legislators from paying their families with campaign funds with some saying it was unrelated to the current legislation and others that the payments were not a problem.[71][72] Additionally, they tabled his proposal to define Indian tribes as corporations and its members as shareholders so that they are required to contribute to candidates through political action committees instead of their tribal treasury.[73] Senators objected saying that they are already subjected to campaign laws for unincorporated entities and individuals and that the proposal was singling them out unfairly.[72] The reform package became law in September 2007.[64]

In 2009, Vitter and Democratic former Senator Russ Feingold announced an effort to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress.[74]

Franken Amendment

Vitter in 2011
Vitter in 2011

In October 2009, the Senate passed Democratic Senator Al Franken's amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would forbid federal contractors from forcing victims of sexual assault, battery and discrimination to submit to binding arbitration (where a third-party typically chosen by the contractor adjudicates) and thereby prohibiting them from going to court.[75][76][77] The impetus for the amendment came from the story of Jamie Leigh Jones who alleged that she was drugged and gang-raped by employees of Halliburton/KBR, a federal contractor.[75][78][79]

The amendment passed 68 to 30 with all opposition coming from Republicans including Vitter (all four female Republicans, six other Republicans and all present Democrats voted for passage).[75][80] Vitter's 2010 Democratic Senatorial opponent Charlie Melancon criticized Vitter for his vote saying, "David Vitter has refused to explain why he voted to allow taxpayer-funded companies to sweep rape charges under the rug. We can only guess what his reasons were."[79][81][82][83] However, The Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker argued that the 30 senators were being "unfairly smeared for doing the harder thing, maybe even for the right reasons."[78]

Republican senators said they voted against it because it was unenforceable, a position also taken by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Obama administration.[75][78][79] However, the DOD and the White House stated they agreed with the intent of the legislation and suggested it would be better if it was broadened to prohibit the use of arbitration in cases of sexual assault for any business contract, not just federal contractors.[78] Senators explained their vote against the legislation by saying it was a political attack on Halliburton and that the Senate shouldn't regulate contracts.[78] The latter argument is countered with many examples of similar restrictions on contractors such as discrimination, bonuses and health care.[75][79] Others felt it was unconstitutional and that arbitration is useful in resolving disputes, often faster, privately and cheaper.[75]

Later, a Baton Rouge rape survivor confronted Vitter at a town hall meeting saying, "[it] meant everything to me that I was able to put the person who attacked me behind bars ... How can you support a law that tells a rape victim that she does not have the right to defend herself?" Vitter replied, "The language in question did not say that in any way shape or form."[84][85]


Vitter opposed a bid by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians to build a casino in Louisiana, arguing that the build site was not historically part of their tribal lands. He lobbied the Interior Department and included language in an appropriations bill to stop the casino. Although the Interior Department gave its approval, the casino has not yet been approved by the state.[86] The Jena chief accused Vitter of ties with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who simultaneously lobbied against the casino. The chairman of the Senate committee investigating the lobbyist said, "The committee has seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Senator Vitter's opposition to (the proposed casino) had to do with anything other than his long-standing opposition to gambling."[87] In 2007 and 2008, Vitter introduced a bill to prohibit Indian casinos such as Jena's. Neither bill became law.[88][89][90]

Gun rights

Rated "A" by the National Rifle Association, Vitter has been a consistent defender of gun rights.[91] In April, 2006, in response to firearm confiscations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter was the Senate sponsor of the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, to prohibit federal funding for the confiscation of legally held firearms during a disaster.[92] Later, Vitter included the provisions of the act in an amendment to an appropriation bill for the Department Of Homeland Security.[93] The bill became law in September 2006, with the amendment modified to allow for the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entering a rescue or evacuation vehicle.[94]

On April 17, 2013, Vitter voted against the Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Amendment. The amendment failed to reach the sixty senatorial votes necessary to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. The Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Amendment is a bipartisan deal on gun background checks. Under the proposal, federal background checks would be expanded to include gun shows and online sales. All such sales would be channeled through licensed firearm dealers who would be charged for keeping record of transactions. The proposal does not require background checks for private sales between individuals.[95]

In February 2008, Vitter – along with Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo of Idaho – blocked the confirmation of Michael J. Sullivan as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) saying Sullivan supports "burdensome regulations" on gun owners and dealers and is "overly aggressive" enforcing gun laws. An editorial writer for The Boston Globe wrote that Vitter's position was "unreasonable" because the guns Sullivan sought to control are those commonly used in crimes: those stolen or purchased on the black market.[96][97] On the other hand, gun rights advocates say that many gun dealers have lost their licenses for harmless bureaucratic errors.[98] Sullivan stayed on as acting head of the ATF until January 2009 to make way for President Barack Obama to name his own nominee.[99]

Hurricane Katrina

Senator Vitter discussing relief efforts with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Senator Vitter discussing relief efforts with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Vitter and the rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation worked to bring aid to the Gulf Coast region to rebuild broken levees, schools and hospitals, restore coastal wetlands, and provide assistance for its many victims.[100]

In early September, Vitter said that he would give "the entire big government organized relief effort a failing grade, across the board." He said that state and local governments shared in the blame as well.[101] Vitter's actions during Hurricane Katrina are described in historian Douglas Brinkley's May 2006 book, The Great Deluge.

In September 2007, Vitter announced that he got "a critical concession" from the White House that decreased Louisiana's obligations for hurricane recovery by $1 billion. However, the White House said that was false.[102]


Vitter has been actively involved with legislation concerning illegal immigrants. In June 2007, he led a group of conservative Senators in blocking the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, a piece of federal legislation that would have granted a pathway to legal residence to 12 million illegal immigrants coupled with increased border enforcement. The bill's defeat won Vitter national attention as the bill was supported by President George W. Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy, among others. Vitter characterized the bill as amnesty, which supporters denied. Bush accused the bill's opponents of fear mongering.[103][104][105]

In October 2007, Vitter introduced an amendment withholding Community Oriented Policing Services funds from any sanctuary city which bans city employees and police officers from asking people about their immigration status in violation of the Illegal Immigration Act. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, in opposition to the amendment, said these cities do not want to inquire about someone's status if they report a crime, are a victim of domestic violence or get vaccinations for their children. The amendment was defeated.[106]

In November 2007, Vitter introduced a bill requiring banks to verify that no customer was an illegal immigrant before issuing banking or credit cards. The bill never made it out of committee.[107][108]

In March 2008, Vitter reintroduced the latter two proposals[109][110] and cosponsored ten of eleven other bills[111] in a Republican package of tough immigration enforcement measures including jail time for illegal border crossing; deportation for any immigrant (legal or illegal) for a single driving while intoxicated; declaration of English as the official language (thereby terminating language assistance at voting booths and federal agencies)' additional construction of a border fence; permission for local and state police to enforce immigration laws and penalties for states who issue drivers licenses to illegals. None of these proposals passed, partially because the Democratic-controlled Senate preferred a comprehensive approach which would include a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for the current population more akin to the package defeated by Vitter in 2007.[112]

In April 2008, Vitter introduced a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that a child born in the United States is not a citizen unless a parent is a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien serving in the military.[113] Currently the Constitution grants citizenship to children born within the U.S. regardless of the legal status of the parents.[114] The bill never made it out of the Democratic-led committee.

Louisiana Family Forum earmark

In September, 2007, Vitter earmarked $100,000 in federal money for a Christian group, the Louisiana Family Forum,[115] known for challenging evolution by means of "teaching the controversy" which promotes intelligent design.[116] According to Vitter, the earmark was "to develop a plan to promote better science education".[115] The Times-Picayune alleged the group had close ties with Vitter.[115] However, they have criticized Vitter for his support of Rudy Giuliani.[117]

On October 17, 2007, the liberal organization People For the American Way, along with several other groups asked the Senate to remove the earmark.[118][119] Vitter later withdrew it.[120][121]


In May 2008, Vitter voted with the majority, despite the opposition of Bush and other Republicans, for the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 to expand educational benefits for veterans similar to the level provided for returning World War II veterans in the G.I. Bill.[122][123][124]

Network neutrality

Vitter was one of six senate Republicans to propose an amendment to a bill which would stop the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing network neutrality which they allege is a violation of the First Amendment.[125]

New Orleans public housing

In September 2007, The Times-Picayune reported that Vitter and the Bush administration opposed a provision of The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery bill which required that every public housing apartment torn down be replaced with another form of low-income housing on a one-for-one basis. The administration testified that there was not sufficient demand for public housing units, a position contested by several senators. Vitter stated it would recreate "housing projects exactly as they were", isolated and riddled with crime. However, Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democratic Senator, said the intent was to make certain there were affordable places for working-class people who returned. The bill requires that demolished housing projects be replaced with mixed income communities which local housing advocates say is different from the massive public housing developments that Vitter is referring to. However, the bill does not include a ban on large-scale projects.[126][127] The city housing authority is planning on replacing 4,000 low-income units with mixed-income projects providing a smaller inventory of low-income units.[128] In December 2007, Vitter prevented the bill from leaving the committee.[127]

Obama nominations

Vitter and Jim DeMint were the only two Senators that voted against Hillary Clinton's confirmation for the position of Secretary of State under the new Obama administration, on January 21, 2009.[129]

He blocked President Obama's nominee for the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator until he received a written commitment on flood control issues from the nominee and FEMA. The New York Times, along with some Republican Senators, criticized Vitter for what it characterized as political posturing, given that the hurricane season was quickly approaching. He lifted his hold on May 12, 2009.[130][131]


Vitter opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[132] and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[133]

Same-sex marriage

Vitter opposes both same-sex marriage and civil unions. In June 2006, he said "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one ... I think this debate is very healthy, and it's winning a lot of hearts and minds. I think we're going to show real progress."[134] In 2006, he told The Times-Picayune, "I'm a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history."[135]

In October 2005, at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon, Vitter compared gay marriage to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which came through the same geographical areas. Vitter said "It's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita. I always knew I was against same-sex unions."[136]

School board prayer

In 2005 Vitter introduced a resolution supporting prayer at school board meetings in response to an earlier district court decision that the Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish practice of opening meetings with Christian prayers was unconstitutional. The bill died in committee after receiving little support from colleagues on both sides of the aisle.[137][138] Vitter later reintroduced the resolution in January 2007 after a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court concluded that Christian prayers were unconstitutional but was undecided whether nonsectarian prayers were allowed. In July 2007, the full Fifth Circuit dismissed the case because of a lack of standing. The school board subsequently resumed prayer evocations but opened it to diverse community religions. Vitter's bill died in committee.[138][139][140][141]

Tea Party movement

In recognition of the Tea Party protests opposing President Barack Obama's policies, Vitter proposed Senate Resolution 98, which would designate April 15 in years both 2009 and 2010 as "National TEA Party Day". As of April 2009, the bill has no cosponsors and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary with no scheduled action.[142]

In September 2010, Vitter signed a candidate pledge from the North Central Louisiana TEA Party Patriots. It included a promise to "Conduct myself personally and professionally in a moral and socially appropriate manner."[143]

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

In September 2007, during hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vitter expressed serious doubts about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty concerning issues of U.S. sovereignty[144] echoing an array of conservative groups against the treaty[144][145] including the National Center for Public Policy Research,[146] the Heritage Foundation[147] and the Center for Security Policy.[148] The treaty, which sets up countries' jurisdiction over their coasts and ocean including exploration and navigation rights,[149] was supported by the Bush administration, a majority of the United States Senate, the Pentagon, the State Department and Navy[150] as do a coalition of business and environmental groups.[151] The committee approved the treaty 17–4, with Vitter voting no.[152]

Water Resources and Development Act

Vitter helped write the Water Resources and Development Act for flood-control, hurricane-protection and coastal-restoration projects including $3.6 billion for Louisiana. He called it the "single most important" legislation for assisting Louisiana with its recovery from hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush vetoed the act, objecting to its cost.[153][154][155] Congress overrode his veto, enacting the bill.[156]

Committee assignments

2007 prostitution scandal

In early July 2007, Vitter's phone number was included in a published list of phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates, a company owned and run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, also known as the "D.C. Madam", who was convicted by the U.S. government for running a prostitution service. Hustler identified the phone number and contacted Vitter's office to ask about his connection to Palfrey.[157][158] The following day, Vitter issued a written statement in which he took responsibility for his "sin" and asked for forgiveness.[159] On July 16, 2007, after a week of self-imposed seclusion, Vitter emerged and called a news conference. As his wife stood next to him, Vitter asked the public for forgiveness. Following Vitter's remarks, his wife Wendy Vitter spoke, but both refused to answer any questions.[160][161][162] In 2004, Vitter had denied allegations that he had patronized prostitutes.[6]

While the Louisiana state Republican Party offered guarded support,[163] national Republicans offered forgiveness.[164] The Nation predicted that the Republican Party would be in a "forgiving mood", because if he were to resign, Governor of Louisiana Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, would likely appoint a Democrat to take Vitter's place until a special election could be held, thus increasing Democratic control over the US Senate.[165][166][167]

On September 8, 2015, reporter Derek Myers was fired from WVLA-TV after asking Vitter, who was running for governor, about allegations that the senator had frequented prostitutes.[168] After Myers' question, Myers said an unnamed coworker overheard a conversation about the Vitter campaign's ad dollars at the station, possibly with a threat from the campaign to pull the ads.[169] Democrat John Bel Edwards released an ad about the prostitution scandal two weeks before the run-off election and won by more than 12%.[170]

2015 gubernatorial election

Main article: 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election

Vitter announced on January 21, 2014, that he would run for governor of Louisiana in the 2015 election.[171] Then-Governor Bobby Jindal was ineligible to seek re-election due to term limits.[172] Vitter was the first sitting or ex-U.S. Senator to launch a gubernatorial bid in Louisiana since 1904, when Democrat Newton Blanchard was elected.[173] Vitter's major opponents were Republicans Scott Angelle, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner and former lieutenant governor,[174][175] and Jay Dardenne, the current lieutenant governor;[176] and Democrat John Bel Edwards, Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives.[174][177]

On November 5, Dardenne, who finished fourth in the primary election, endorsed Democrat Edwards in the general election race against his intraparty rival Vitter. Dardenne made the announcement at "Free Speech Alley" in front of the LSU Student Union building in Baton Rouge.[178] After the primary, polls showed Edwards with a commanding lead over Vitter. Verne Kennedy of Market Research Insight placed Edwards ahead, 54 to 38 percent or 51 to 40 percent, depending on the level of turnout among African-American voters, either 25 or 20 percent, accordingly.[179]

In the November 21 runoff election, Edwards defeated Vitter by 56% to 44%.[180]

Other political involvement

Vitter became involved in the Louisiana State Senate District 22 special election held in January 2011, a vacancy created by the resignation of Troy Hebert, who accepted an appointment in the Jindal administration in Baton Rouge. Vitter endorsed and made telephone calls on behalf of a Democrat-turned-Republican state representative, Simone B. Champagne of Jeanerette in Iberia Parish. However, Champagne was soundly defeated by another Democrat-turned-Republican state lawmaker, Fred Mills, Jr., a banker and pharmacist from St. Martin Parish.[181]

In August 2014, Vitter endorsed the Common Core curriculum for Louisiana schools, a position shared by his Republican intraparty rival for governor, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne. Vitter said that he regards Governor Bobby Jindal's attempt to withdraw from Common Core before the start of another school year to be "very disruptive". Vitter described Common Core as "very strong, significant, positive standards".[182]

In 2016, Vitter succeeded after a five-year battle in passing through the Senate landmark legislation to reform the country's chemical safety laws. Vitter called the legislation a "big accomplishment. This is an area of federal law that everybody, every stakeholder, every group, whether it's some far-left environmental group or industry, said needed to be updated. The trick was getting agreement on doing that." Democratic colleague Richard Durbin of Illinois, a frequent critic of Vitter, said that if the bill is enacted with President Obama's signature "it's quite an accomplishment for him and for Congress to pass historic legislation."[183]

Post-Senate career

After his Senate term ended, Vitter joined the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, Mercury LLC.[184] As of October 2019, Vitter lobbies for sanctioned Chinese surveillance company Hikvision[185] as well as for the Libyan Government of National Accord and the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.[186] Vitter also lobbied for the sanctioned Russian bank Sovcombank.[187]

Electoral history

2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 444,517 39.89%
Republican David Vitter 256,300 23.00%
Republican Scott Angelle 214,982 19.29%
Republican Jay Dardenne 166,656 14.96%
Democratic Cary Deaton 11,763 1.06%
Democratic S. L. Simpson 7,420 0.67%
No party Beryl Billiot 5,694 0.51%
Other Jeremy Odom 4,756 0.43%
Other Eric Paul Orgeron 2,248 0.20%
Total 1,114,336 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John Bel Edwards 646,924 56.1%
Republican David Vitter 505,940 43.9%
Total 1,152,864 100%
Democratic gain from Republican

2010 Louisiana United States Senatorial Election

Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Vitter (inc.) 715,304 56.56%
Democratic Charlie Melancon 476,423 37.67%
Libertarian Randall Hayes 13,952 1.10%
No party Michael Brown 9,970 0.79%
Other Mike Spears 9,188 0.73%
Other Ernest Wooton 8,164 0.65%
No party Skip Galan 7,471 0.59%
Reform William McShan 5,879 0.46%
Other Bob Lang 5,732 0.45%
No party Milton Gordon 4,806 0.38%
Other Tommy LaFargue 4,042 0.32%
No party Sam Melton 3,779 0.30%
Total 1,264,710 100%
Republican hold

2004 Louisiana United States Senatorial Election

Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Vitter 943,014 51.03%
Democratic Chris John 542,150 29.34%
Democratic John Neely Kennedy 275,821 14.92%
Democratic Arthur A. Morrell 47,222 2.56%
Other Richard M. Fontanesi 15,097 0.82%
Other R. A. "Skip" Galan 12,463 0.67%
Democratic Sam Houston Melton, Jr. 12,289 0.66%
Total 1,848,056 100%
Republican gain from Democratic

1999 Louisiana 1st District United States Congressional Election

Blanket primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David C. Treen 36,719 25.06%
Republican David Vitter 31,741 21.67%
Republican David Duke 28,059 19.15%
Republican Monica Monica 22,928 15.65%
Democratic Bill Strain 16,446 11.23%
Republican Rob Couhig 9,295 6.34%
Democratic Darryl P. Ward 720 0.49%
Republican Patrick E. Landry 344 0.23%
Republican S. J. LoCoco 246 0.17%
Total 146,498 100%
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican David Vitter 61,661 50.75%
Republican David C. Treen 59,849 49.25%
Total 121,510 100%
Republican hold

1995 Louisiana 81st District State House of Representatives Election

Party Candidate %
Republican David Vitter (inc.) 100%
Total 100%
Republican hold

1991 Louisiana 81st District State House of Representatives Election

Party Candidate %
Republican David Vitter 68%
Republican Mike Reynolds 24%
Republican Mercedes Hernandez 8%
Total 100%
Republican hold

See also


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Louisiana House of Representatives Preceded byDavid Duke Member of the Louisiana House of Representativesfrom the 81st district 1992–1999 Succeeded byJennifer Sneed Heebe U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byBob Livingston Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Louisiana's 1st congressional district 1999–2005 Succeeded byBobby Jindal Party political offices Preceded byJim Donelon Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana(Class 3) 2004, 2010 Succeeded byJohn Neely Kennedy Preceded byBobby Jindal Republican nominee for Governor of Louisiana 2015 Succeeded byEddie Rispone U.S. Senate Preceded byJohn Breaux U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana 2005–2017 Served alongside: Mary Landrieu, Bill Cassidy Succeeded byJohn Neely Kennedy Preceded byJim Inhofe Ranking Member of the Senate Environment Committee 2013–2015 Succeeded byBarbara Boxer Preceded byMaria Cantwell Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee 2015–2017 Succeeded byJim Risch U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byBob Corkeras Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United Statesas Former US Senator Succeeded byEvan Bayhas Former US Senator