David Vitter: Bad Policy and Fuzzy Math


If this fundraising appeal from Louisiana Senator David Vitter for his campaign to defeat the Law of the Sea Convention weren’t so dishonest and misleading it would be hysterical.
Ok, actually, it’s still amazingly funny.
For starters, the note includes a header at the top that reads “Personal & Confidential.” Not two lines later, he begins the note with the most personal of salutations: “Dear Fellow American.”
But that’s just the beginning. The end is just as good. Vitter includes a postscript that reads:

“I have an urgent goal of raising $1,000,000 in the next couple months to fund my defeat LOST campaign.”

That’s nice. He must have forgotten what he wrote just one page earlier:

“I’m willing to spend over $250,000 in the next critical few months to help put the U.S. Senate on notice that the American people want LOST to be defeated.”

In short, I really need a dollar so I can spend a quarter.
Oh, by the way, the campaign to defeat the treaty happens to be called “David Vitter for Senate.” That’s where donors are asked to send their checks.
I promise you, my organization wouldn’t be in business for very long if we sent appeals bragging about 75% overhead.
But we’re not done — there’s plenty more. This appeal is the gift that keeps on giving.

The reply memo includes the usual check boxes for donors to indicate the amount of their donation. This one, however, includes one check box for donations in the amount of $2,500. See a problem? The limit for donations to one candidate is $2,300 per election. Candidates can raise $4,600 for the primary and the general elections together in a single cycle, but the donations have to designated as such. See any directions for donors to do that? I don’t. So, will Vitter for Senate be returning $2,500 dollar checks? Or issuing $200 “oopsies” refunds?
Senator Vitter’s analysis of the Law of the Sea Convention is just as ridiculous as the aforementioned gaffes.
Vitter casts the Law of the Sea as a threat to national defense and “anti-American,” but doesn’t once mention that its supporters include: the President; the National Security Advisor; the Secretaries of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Interior; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Commandant of the Coast Guard, two former Secretaries of the Navy currently serving in the Senate (John Warner and Jim Webb); all living State Department Legal Advisors; and all living Chiefs of Naval Operations. These folks — and this is far from a comprehensive list — all believe that U.S. accession to the Convention is crucial to U.S. national security. The Navy and Coast Guard are making it crystal clear that accession will help them do their jobs and keep them out of harm’s way. But Vitter knows better.
He also says that the Convention is bad for business. Never mind that every ocean industry — shipping, oil and gas, telecom, fishing, marine manufacturing, shipbuilding — all strongly support joining the Convention.
Here’s a paragraph on page 2:

“Articles 19 and 20 of LOST specifically require the U.S. Military to agree to not conduct key military operations or intelligence gathering activities in territorial waters without “permission” from this same nation!”

Not sure what “nation” Vitter is referring to here, but here’s the thing: we’ve already committed not to conduct military activities in the territorial waters of other countries. We did so when we ratified the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone. Why did we want agreement on these provisions? Because we don’t like the idea of Cuban submarines submerged a half-mile off of Miami Beach — or, if we want to get a little closer to home, in the Mississippi river near New Orleans. So it stands to reason that Senator Vitter favors allowing foreign ships to conduct military activities on the Mississippi river and footsteps from the Louisiana shoreline.
I’ll share one more amusing detail. Vitter says “It will take 41 votes in the U.S. Senate to defeat LOST.” But advice and consent to treaties requires two thirds of those voting and present in the Senate, so it would require no more than 34 opponents to block accession. Again Vitter’s ignorance is on display for all to see.
I really could go through this letter paragraph by paragraph picking out factual errors, misstatements and even grammatical errors — but there’s really no need to rebut stuff this outrageous and silly.
I usually wouldn’t get so excited about finding detail-level errors in a fundraising letter that some underpaid campaign staffer probably put together. But Vitter is casting himself as an expert on the Law of the Sea and a leader in the campaign to derail U.S. accession. That’s why Senator Vitter’s willingness to utterly ignore facts and details when it suits him — or when he’s simply lazy and doesn’t feel like it — captures my attention.
So, Confidentially & Personally, Mr. and Mrs. Fellow American, please take Senator Vitter’s analysis of the Law of the Sea Convention with a grain of salt.
— Scott Paul


One comment on “David Vitter: Bad Policy and Fuzzy Math

  1. Zathras says:

    I read blogs because sometimes I learn something. For example, I now know that Sen. Vitter is a David. I could have sworn he was a john.
    Now, seriously, the vast majority of Congressmen and Senators get reelected. Will of the people and all that, but really the very low rate of turnover in Congress can’t be a good thing. It probably signifies, as much as anything, the extent to which legislators spend their time preparing for their campaigns.
    As a partial remedy, I propose adopting an extremely censorious and judgmental attitude toward legislators caught up in some kind of personal misconduct. Has one been found to frequent houses of ill fame? Pled guilty to soliciting a policeman in an airport mens room? Been found to stash tens of thousands of dollars in dirty cash in his home refrigerator? Throw them all out. I mean, pressure them to resign, and pester them and their families as long as they do not.
    I have no illusions that following this course will diminish vice, public or private, in this country. But there needs to be some way to generate some turnover in the national legislature, and this would be a start.


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