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Sen. Vitter Apologizes for Number Showing Up on Phone Records of Alleged Prostitution Ring

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has apologized for his telephone number showing up on the old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates, the alleged prostitution ring run in the nation's capital by Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in a statement after the phone records were posted Monday on Palfrey's Web site.

"Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there —with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way," he wrote.

The acknowledgment from Vitter, a Republican who recently won praise from conservatives for his opposition to the immigration reform bill, comes days after U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler lifted a restraining order, allowing Palfrey, 51, to distribute pages of phone records that she and her attorney said contains up to 15,000 names.

Palfrey's attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, said he did not know that Vitter's number was on the list, and was surprised by the admission.

"I'm stunned that someone would be apologizing for this," he said.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco on Tuesday expressed her dismay over Vitter's admission, saying she was "disappointed" and indicated that efforts to rebuild from the 2005 hurricane season could be stymied by the new scandal.

"I will travel to Washington in the coming weeks to continue my conversations with congressional leaders, and I hope this scandal will not lessen their critical support of our recovery," Blanco said.

Palfrey, who faces, federal racketeering and conspiracy charges, says she runs a legal escort service. Prosecutors say the business netted more than $2 million from 1993 to 2006.

Palfrey's Web site contains several pages phone records, but no names, dating from August 1994 to August 2006. Palfrey wrote on the Web site that she believed a disk containing the records had been pirated, and said she was posting the records "to thwart any possible distorted version and to ensure the integrity of the information."

Prosecutors had won two temporary restraining orders to prevent her from distributing the list, first to preserve its availability and then to prevent the harassment of potential witnesses through its distribution.

But prosecutors' arguments did not hold up, the judge ruled. The availability of the list is not in jeopardy and it was not seized or listed with her other assets that were subject to forfeiture, Kessler wrote.

Freezing "the personal property of an individual, not yet convicted of any crime" would be an extraordinary step, the requirements of which government prosecutors failed to satisfy, the judge wrote.

Palfrey's Web site contains several pages phone records, but no names, dating from August 1994 to August 2006. Palfrey wrote on the Web site that she believed a disk containing the records had been pirated, and said she was posting the records "to thwart any possible distorted version and to ensure the integrity of the information."

Vitter and his wife, Wendy, live in Metairie, La., with their four children.

A Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar, Vitter, 46, was elected to his current office in 2004, becoming the first Republican from Louisiana elected to the Senate since Reconstruction. He represented Louisiana's 1st Congressional District in the House from 1999 to 2004.

Vitter took over the House seat held by former Rep. Robert Livingston, who nearly became the House speaker until his own extramarital affair became public. Livingston, a Republican, had been a vocal critic of President Clinton, whose affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky nearly ended his presidency.

In 2000, Wendy Vitter told Newhouse News Service she could not be as forgiving as Livingston's wife or Hillary Clinton.

"I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary," she said. "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

Lorena Bobbitt, in a 1993 case that drew worldwide attention, cut-off her husband's penis during an argument.

Vitter's admission also could have a negative impact on the campaign for one of the leading presidential canidates, Rudy Giuliani. Vitter is the former New York mayor's regional campaign chairman for the South.

Giuliani's campaign just suffered another blow in South Carolina, where Giuliani's state chairman, state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, was hit with federal cocaine charges. Giuilani has also been under fire for refusing to fire Monsignor Alan Placa from Giuliani's security consulting firm; Placa is a Catholic priest and childhood friend who was suspended from the church over abuse allegations.

Giuliani told reporters after a campaign stop in Concord, N.H., he had not spoken to Vitter since the news broke and said in any case it was "a personal issue" for Vitter.

"You'll have to hear from Senator Vitter," he said. "If you look at all the people I appointed, a thousand or so, sure, some of them had issues. Some of them had problems. The vast majority of them are outstanding people."

Until Vitter's admission, the most prominent client of Palfrey's to emerge was senior State Department official Randall Tobias, who resigned from his post in April after ABC News confronted him about his use of the service.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.