On Friday, Melancon, who represents Louisiana's Third District, launched a hard-hitting Web site – www.serioussins.com – and television ad called "The Worst," which "holds Vitter accountable for his miserable record on issues impacting Louisiana women." Click play below to watch the TV ad:
The 30-second spot, which is airing throughout Louisiana on broadcast and cable channels, begins with footage of Vitter with his wife, Wendy, beside him, at a 2007 press conference where he admitted involvement in a Washington D.C. prostitution ring.
"We know how David Vitter handled his serious sin," the female narrator says.
The ad continues with a litany of issues, including Vitter's votes against equal pay for equal work, coverage for mammograms, and protections for women raped on the job.
The most stunning aspect is a picture of a woman's chin with stitches. The narrator says a Vitter staffer "violently abused" his girlfriend and Vitter allowed him to continue his job "working on women's issues."
The staffer – Brent Furer – resigned from his aide position in late June after ABC News Investigation reported that Furer had been arrested in 2008 for attacking his ex-girlfriend with a knife. Furer was accused of holding his ex-girlfriend against her will for 90 minutes, threatening to kill her, placing his hand over her mouth and cutting her in the hand and neck.
Vitter acknowledged that he knew about the arrest.
According to ABC News, Furer eventually pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges, including threatening harm and destruction of property. The assault and weapons charges were dismissed. Furer was sentenced to 180 days confinement, two years of supervised probation, 40 hours of community service, and treatment for drug and alcohol dependency. After getting a harsh warning from a judge, his jail term was suspended.
Furer, a former Marine and veteran of the Iraq War, continued to work on Capitol Hill after a two-month suspension from Vitter's office. He received his salary except for five days, according to ABC News.
The Vitter campaign referred comment about the ad to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In an e-mail statement, the NRSC called the ad "desperate."
"This attack ad is just another desperate attempt by Charlie Melancon to distract voters from his years in Washington carrying water for Nancy Pelosi and President Obama," Chris Bond, NRSC spokesman, said in the e-mail.
The release also said, "The choice before voters is clear: Charlie Melancon is a liberal Democrat who has rubberstamped President Obama's agenda in Washington. Senator Vitter is a commonsense conservative who has fought to protect Louisianians from Obama and Melancon's job-killing, tax-hiking agenda. Louisianians overwhelmingly reject the reckless policies Melancon and his party bosses are ramming down their throats from Washington, and that's why voters will reelect Senator Vitter this November."
On Thursday, the Vitter campaign launched its own television ad, "Parallel Universe" against Melancon. In that ad, Vitter attacked Melancon's "use of your money" for Wall Street millionaires, benefits for illegal immigrants and to buy himself a luxury SUV.
The Melancon campaign said that Melancon leased an SUV for congressional travel.
The Serious Sins Web site also features footage of Jamie Leigh Jones, who worked for Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc. in Iraq. She alleged that in 2005, seven KBR employees drugged and raped her. She said she reported the attack and said she was detained in a shipping container without food or water for 24 hours. Jones had signed a contract with her employers that included a loophole that effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of U.S. law. KBR has said many of Jones' allegations are false, and has called her a self-promoter.
Vitter voted against an amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to "ban government funding of defense contractors who forced employees to mandatory binding arbitration in the case of rape, assault, wrongful imprisonment, harassment, and discrimination."
The amendment passed the Senate last December and was signed into law by President Obama.
Vitter also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Over the years, Vitter has voted against various legislation regarding mammograms. In 2006, Vitter voted to override state mandates requiring health insurance to cover procedures such as breast cancer screening.
Louisiana politics is a complex beast. There's no guarantee that Melancon and Vitter will be their parties' nominees in November. Both men face primary challenges on Aug. 28, one day before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Vitter faces a Republican primary opponent, Chet D. Traylor, a retired associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. But Traylor has an uphill battle with name recognition and fundraising, as do the Democrats opposing Melancon.
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.