Facing reporters for the first time in weeks on Wednesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) denied a key element in the controversy surrounding a former legislative aide who remained on Vitter’s staff after pleading guilty to attacking his girlfriend with a knife in 2008. But records reviewed by TPM show clearly that Vitter’s claim is false.
Brent Furer pled guilty in 2008 to attacking his girlfriend with a knife, but was nonetheless retained in Vitter’s DC legislative office in the role of legislative assistant for women’s issues until the details of Furer’s crime were publicized in late June. He subsequently resigned. In Louisiana today, Vitter categorically denied that Furer worked on women’s issues in any way. But numerous records and published accounts prove otherwise.
Several DC-based information services publish detailed listings of staff assignments and contact information for Capitol Hill offices. And multiple directories, both online and in hard copy, name Furer as Vitter’s legislative assistant on women’s issues.
Below is a copy of the print edition of the Capitol Advantage Guidebook directory of Women’s Issues legislative assistants for the 111th Congress (which is to say, after the knife attack in 2008), and passed my way by a source.
We’ve reviewed other, similar directories which also list Furer as a women’s issues LA.
These guidebooks are put together by a handful of companies, which get their information directly from legislative offices.
Furthermore, in his capacity as Vitter’s Women’s Issues LA, Furer worked with at least one prominent Louisiana advocate — Beth Meeks, executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence — on domestic violence legislation, and she was personally informed that Furer was Vitter’s point man on the issue.
According to ABC News, Meeks “had been in Washington in June - just before news of the incident went public.”
A call placed this evening to Vitter’s congressional spokesman Joel DiGrado was not returned.
At his press conference today, Vitter was asked why Furer was assigned to work on women’s issues even after Vitter knew about the assault.
“Uh, he was not,” Vitter said.
To clarify, a reporter asked, “He was not assigned to women’s issues?”
“Correct,” Vitter responded. “And that’s just one of several issues that have been completely misreported. Tonya Newman, Nicole Hebert in my office are assigned to women’s issues. That’s always been the case.”
Tonya Newman, according to Legistorm, serves as his Deputy Chief of Staff, and has served over the course of years as both Chief of Staff and Communications Director, while bouncing back and forth between Vitter’s personal office and his Banking and Urban Affairs Committee office. Nicole Hebert works out of his Lafayette office as a liaison on women’s issues.
You can see the entire exchange below.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.