Wednesday, 25 August 2010 14:29

Louisiana Lawsuit Threat Flies In Traylor Vs. Vitter Scrap, But Why?

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steve_sabludowsky01Louisiana Senator David Vitter is fighting back and his attorney is claiming that Vitter is willing to have his day in Court.

Recently, an attorney for Senator Vitter threatened a lawsuit over a political radio commercial.  Vitter’s lawyer sent letters to Louisiana radio stations, threatening lawsuits if the stations continued to air a certain Chet Traylor commercial.  Traylor, a republican candidate for US Senate and an ex-Louisiana Supreme Court Justice is opposing Vitter in Saturday’s GOP primary election.

Vitter’s attorney is alleging that Traylor’s commercials are making claims that are false, misleading and defamatory.  The topics to which Vitter is objecting refers to “women’s issues” which not only Traylor but other Vitter opponents including Democrat Congressman Charlie Melancon have attempted to exploit.  Vitter’s opposition claims that the white women vote is the senator’s Achilles heel.  The Traylor’s camp appears eager to stress certain issues for a variety of reasons and supported by its own poll which it says shows that the more one knows about Vitter’s personal life and matters related to women, the weaker his support and the closer the election would be.

The attorney’s letters refer to a seventeen-year-old civil battery case involving a woman who the court determined that Vitter touched while trying to take away a tape recorder.  The court awarded the woman only fifty dollars which in effect was saying that while Vitter engaged in an unwanted touch, the woman was not really injured or damaged at all.  The letter also referred to a more recent controversy that has attracted the attention of some members of the national media.  This controversy involves  former Vitter aide (Brett Furer).  In dredging up both the old Jefferson Parish lawsuit and by further publicizing the more recent Furer matter, Vitter’s opponents are now trying to claim that Vitter, in both the Jefferson Parish lawsuit and in the Furer controversy, has not been respecting women.  Vitter has denied any wrongdoing or improper handling of the Furer issues.  Vitter’s attorney is also stating that certain allegations made by Traylor have not been litigated or admitted by Furer and therefore are not proven to be true.

Lou Munsun, President of the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, says local stations are bound by law to run all political commercials “as-is”, without editing, censorship, or review.

Which makes me wonder why David Vitter is even bothering waving lawsuit threats within the radio air-waves. 

After all, last week, an independent poll taken on August 15-16 said Vitter is ahead of his democratic opponent, Charlie Melancon by a 48-36 percent margin. That statewide survey was taken Aug. 15-16 by Washington-based Clarus Research Group.  Other polls have been conflicting.  Most of the recent polls over the past year including a SMOR poll have claimed that Vitter was ahead of Melancon by 18-20 percentage points.   Adding to the dueling poll battles is one commissioned by a national democratic group which Melancon has been promoting as being accurate. That poll, released weeks ago, found Vitter and Melancon to be tied.

Despite the Clarus and the SMOR poll showing Vitter well in the lead, it is absolutely correct that the current US Senator cannot claim re-election victory quite yet.   However, when considering the preponderance of the polls, it would  seem evident that a significant burden lays upon Vitter’s opponents (including Melancon) in their efforts to close the gaps over the next few months leading up to the general election.

Still, regardless of the merits of the threatened lawsuits, the letter from Vitter’s attorney suggests that the US Senator is ready to use litigation if the commercials continue.  Given Vitter’s apparent lead perhaps there is another reason for Vitter’s  attorney’s  cease-and-desist letter.  Perhaps the US Senator, who has been embroiled in controversy which would have doomed the political career of most politicians is trying to send a much broader message to all of his opponents and not just Traylor, who Vitter will likely dispose of Saturday during the republican primary. That message could very well be that certain topics and attacks will be met with a heavy price—meaning, “see you in court” .

But should Vitter continue to threaten litigation or actually file a lawsuit, it just might backfire against him in the future. 

Here’s why:

So far, Vitter has been able to successfully blunt the demands for disclosure of information associated with his personal life and allegations related to the Furer controversy. 

If Vitter were to file a lawsuit claiming damages, that action could open doors into rooms the republican senator might prefer would disappear.   

For instance, during the DC Madam trial, Vitter fought against testifying and even threatened to take the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination.

When the DC Madam case first broke, Vitter publically admitted a “serious sin” and has not released any more information preferring to label it as “old news”.

As a new Democrat administration joined with a democratic congressional majority, Louisiana voters are more adverse to what they consider to be “radical” political philosophies than they are to serious sins.  As a result, Vitter has been very successful in racking up an army of supporters as well as a mountain of cash for this US senate election run. 

While Vitter is the odds-on favorite to be sworn in as the Louisiana Senator for another six-year term, threatening litigation can indeed be a double edge sword for other reasons altogether.  The more Senator Vitter threatens to file suit, the more he will need to follow up on those threats or else they will be considered to be idle. 

Also, no matter the senator’s motivations, the more he claims foul and therefore claims to be willing to threaten litigation, the more the public might wonder why the senator would be so concerned over the scrutiny. 

Perhaps the better political approach would be for David Vitter and his lawyers to back off of these litigation threats.  After all, if winning re-election to the US. Senate is the “holy grail”, Vitter is closer to snagging it more than anyone else.

Based upon the poll numbers there’s likely a sizeable segment of Louisiana’s voting population who would rather take a “been there, heard that” about these “women issues”--even if, occasionally, new revelations pop up.  After all, it is evident that his supporters and his likely voters would much rather hear the cries that Obama and congress are courting disaster.

by Stephen Sabludowsky, J.D.

Publisher of

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