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Whose Money is Dirtier, Client No. 9's or Sen. Vitter's?

Attention, House Republicans: you are on high hypocrisy alert.

As long as the National Republican Congressional Committee continues to fume about Democrats who took "sleazy" campaign contributions from disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, then a Washington watchdog group is going to make a big stink about Republicans who took campaign donations from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who, like Spitzer, also had a brush of infamy with an alleged prostitution ring.

The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, wants to know why GOP members of Congress and the National Republican Senatorial Committee haven't returned Vitter's contributions.

In other words, why is Spitzer's money any sleazier than Vitter's?

Spitzer, a liberal who has prosecuted prostitution cases, resigned Wednesday over what he called his "private failings" while Vitter, a Christian conservative who apologized for committing "a very serious sin," remains in office.

That's not right, says CREW executive director Melanie Sloan.

"Both men were soliciting prostitutes," she says flatly. But Vitter "received a standing ovation" from his Senate Republican colleagues after his transgressions were reported.

Sloan adds that she believes Spitzer's case is "more serious" because the soon-to-be former governor was nailed in a federal criminal probe. (Spitzer hasn't been charged with any crime, at least not yet.) Still, CREW notes in a press release, "As widely reported, Sen. Vitter has solicited prostitutes in the past."

"It's hypocrisy," Sloan says. Saying "what's good for the goose is good for the gander," CREW pointed out six GOP House members who took money from Vitter in the 2006 election cycle and suggested they return the money, just as one House Democratic member and another Democratic House candidate gave up their donations from Spitzer this week.

One GOP member who took Vitter cash, retiring eight-term Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), tells CREW: fuhgeddaboutit!

"No, we're not giving the money back," Pryce spokesman Rob Nichols told us. "We spent it a long time ago."

Nor does the NRSC plan to return a $25,000 contribution it received from Vitter in the '06 cycle, according to NRSC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher, who didn't elaborate.

Meanwhile, the NRCC's counterpart and political nemesis, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is jumping on the hypocrisy bandwagon, too.

"There is certainly no shortage of hypocrisy in the Republican Party," says DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell, who finds the NRCC's crusade against "sleazy" Spitzer money laughable in light of GOP scandals.

"Between the former members wearing orange jumpsuits and the current members under indictment or criminal investigations you could fill a New York City subway car," Thornell groans.

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain says CREW is all but a front for the Democratic Party. "This is the very same Democrat-leaning organization that admitted just one day before that Governor Spitzer's alleged crime is 'more serious' and will likely amount to 'one or more felonies.' We take them at their word and agree with them wholeheartedly."

Though Spain still didn't tell us what makes Republicans think Spitzer's hooker money is any dirtier than Vitter's.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  March 13, 2008; 2:25 PM ET
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