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GOP Rep. Sessions' Defends His Burlesque Fundraiser

We had never heard of a member of Congress holding a fundraiser at a Las Vegas burlesque nightclub... until now.

And the culprit is card-carrying conservative Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.). The same Pete Sessions who scolded Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for forcing "their liberal values upon the rest of the country" after their infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime striptease.

But that was then.

Rep. Sessions

Now we learn that Sessions held a racey (for Washington) fundraiser for his leadership political action committee last year at Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce nightclub in Sin City. A description of the club on its web site, which features a scantily clad dancer, reads: "A blue light silhouettes the sax man as one of the sexy, sensual dancers slowly slinks down the stairs to the stage and leans out over the crowd, holding on with only a handful of the world-famous curtain of pearls! Jaws drop and drinks are ignored as the tempo picks up and the dancer steps up, shedding boa, gown and gloves towards the electrifying finale."

The fundraiser was first reported in a little-noticed segment on the public radio show Marketplace last week. Even though, according to Sessions' office, the Marketplace interview with him was conducted back in December, ostensibly to discuss the congressman's role in Rudy Giuliani's now defunct presidential campaign.

Here's a partial transcript of the Marketplace interview:

Sessions: That's right, we do a Las Vegas fundraiser every year and not only raise money, but see Las Vegas. It's a beautiful town.

[Reporter Steve] Henn: Forty Deuce is a strip club.

Sessions: You know, I've never seen that. It is what I would call a burlesque show where there's a woman who comes out and has a dress on... Uh, she never get's naked. There's no nudity, there's no nudity in there.

This is how the club's owner, Ivan Kane, describes his brand of burlesque.

Ivan Kane: The key component would be to have girls who were dancers taking their clothes off, not just girls taking their clothes off.

But the Forty Deuce Web site does not suggest the dancers are nude. And Sessions' chief of staff, Guy Harrison, tells the Sleuth there was no nudity at the fundraiser at all, just good old fashioned burlesque.

"It was as racey as a 1940's movie," Harrison assured us.

Still, it's probably a good thing that Sessions was given his "true blue" award from the Christian conservative Family Research Council and Focus on the Family organizations before holding his burlesque fundraiser. Just a hunch.

Sessions' PAC, called People of Enterprise, Trade and Economic Growth, paid $5,378 to rent out the entire Forty Deuce club last year, according to federal election records. (Instead of going burlesque, Sessions held his PAC's annual Vegas fundraiser this year at the 40/40 sports lounge owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.)

Sessions himself has been known to have an exhibitionist streak -- streak being the operative word.

In 1974, as a college freshman, he participated in a mass streaking rampage across the campus of what was then called Texas State University. As the Sleuth, in a previous incarnation, reported in this subscription-only Roll Call newspaper column in 2004, Sessions bragged about his streaking abilities to the San Antonio News. At the time, he was two weeks shy of his 19th birthday.

"Just taking off your clothes and running around is kind of a free spirit thing," Sessions said.

And so is holding a political fundraiser at a burlesque club in Vegas.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 29, 2008; 4:55 PM ET
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So he goes to Las Vegas (a beautiful city if you enjoy neon and homeless people)has a fund raiser at a strip club, but none of the entertainers take off their clothes...
Well, he's either an idiot or a liar, he's from Texas so idiot seems slightly more likely.

Posted by: dijetlo | July 29, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Just a small correction: Sessions attended and graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a small private liberal arts college. You have it confused with what used to be called Southwest Texas State University and is now known as Texas State University-San Marcos, a much larger school (and the alma mater of Lyndon Johnson). Also, note that Pete Sessions is a hypocritical idiot and an embarrassment to the good people of Southwestern University -- as he would be to the good people of Texas State, if he'd really gone there.

Posted by: bjh | July 30, 2008 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Damn those Democrats and their liberal values!


What's that you say? This guy's a Republican? Nevermind then. Remember, it's okay if you're a Republican.

Posted by: Jim Crozier | July 30, 2008 12:50 AM | Report abuse

For a Democrat: Where it's slightly warm, there's damnable fire.

For a Republican: Where there's engulfing flames, it's the rapture.

Or maybe it's Hell. Ask the Christian Right, I'm just a patriotic, law-abiding, family & community-loving atheist, what do I know of such things? Maybe hypocrisy is a virtue in the USA now.

Posted by: Adam | July 30, 2008 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I like to trim my steaks into the shapes of vegetables and tell my vegan friends I don't eat meat (-shaped food).

They don't buy it either.

Republik Senator

Posted by: Voltaire | July 30, 2008 2:48 AM | Report abuse

Another Republican family-values hypocrite? So surprising.

I'm actually stunned you even reported this. Sen. Craig Vitter admitted to soliciting prostitutes in both Louisiana and D.C., with one of them saying he liked to wear diapers, and the press just yawned.

It's OK If You're a Republican!

Posted by: TR | July 30, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I think liberals value all positions but Sessions seems to like dominant dog or straight man on top hypocrisy.

Posted by: repugnicant | July 30, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse


oh really? now that idiotic fraction of a second's boob-flash has been transformed into a striptease?

the 'liberal' media at work.

Posted by: linda | July 30, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Where are those people that vote these clowns in office over and over? Why are they so blind? If our local Congressman is involved in a saucy media snag like this... you can bet they wouldn't see the next election in their favor. These other places must have the mob bustin knees for votes or something... I am perplexed!

Posted by: Ed | July 30, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

this is not surprising from the party that loves to soak themselves in family values. the ones that talk family values really have a freak in them. but let anyone else do this and they would be the first ones screaming and hollaring. their thing is do what i say and not what i do. remember they never take a look in the mirror.

Posted by: sharon | July 30, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

So, my US Representative had to go all the way to Vegas to find a strip club!.. Gosh, he sure doesn't even know his own district! He could have gone to any number of strip clubs right here in Dallas, had a lunchtime 'quickie' fundraiser, then returned to his secure, bunker-like district office. Later, he could have worked on earning more Eagle Scout merit badges before attending a church supper, followed by bingo and Bible study. Instead, local Dallas beauties missed out on Pete's 100-dollar tips and he was left with a 2100-dollar hotel bill! and no money was actually raised for his PAC!

Posted by: DemJohnT | July 30, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

The reason that people keep reelecting these hypocrites is that in their districts the majority don't watch the news and don't read much beyond the sports page in their local paper. But more to the point, the local paper will not have any storys on this type of behavior. Because, after all, they are good family values republicians-along with all the rest of the republician hypocrite brigade-and the majority of the people that they represent are sheeple. They skim headlines, they hear the big lie, but never the correction or rebuttle. They are the 50% of uninvolved voters, the sheeple, most of whom have no idea who their congressman is, or senator or even governor. They are sheeple, hear them roar. They will follow-sheep like-what their local conservative talk radio host tells them and just like the sheep that they act like, will continue to vote for whomever that radio host tells them to. They will believe every attack ad that their congressman puts out, because after all their congressman would never tell a lie would he. So the peccadillos, lies, gaffes and various visits to prostitutes-unless they are boys-will be covered up or ignored, because all republicians are pillars of christianity, anything against that meme must be a lie. That is the sheeple worldview, and nothing will change it.

Posted by: Timothy Richley | July 30, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Nice to know that Sessions does such a good job representing his constituents in Las Vegas. He is obviously the poster boy for "family values." Don't Republicans ever tire of this kind of hypocrisy? Or is that the first plank in the party platform: "Live it up and pull the wool on the gullible yahoos back home."

Posted by: texun | July 30, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Burlesque is not stripping and there is nothing vile about it. It is a celebration of the human body. It is not raunchy or demeaning. Get over it.

Posted by: Elizabeth | July 30, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

So tired of these hypocrits in my home state. Go to any Baptist Church here in Dallas or rest of Texas and the good people will be told by the preacher what Republican to vote for. Separation of church and state??? Give me a break!!! These politicians are just that politicians.

Posted by: Martha | July 30, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: MEADOW | July 30, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I've been to the Forty-Duce. It is located in the Mandalay Bay hotel and styles itself as a 1930's-40's burlesque club. Compared to other Vegas strip joints, it is not in the same league, in terms of vulgarity. There is a live jazz band with the drummer doing the old school burlesque beats, the feathers, etc. More Gypsy Rose Lee than Jenna Jamison.

Having said that, the dancers most certainly end their routine topless and it is far more racy than the "wardrobe malfunction" that Sessions pitched a fit about.

Just another GOP hypocrite. Not surprising in the least.

Posted by: stax | July 30, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Here's a thought: maybe the constituents of these incorrigibles re-elect them because they don't believe the politician running against him/her will be any better. And, there is a definite negative to sending a freshman politician to congress. S/He won't have seniority and thereby will be less able to send pork projects back to their district.

Posted by: Koatz | July 30, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

If it was original, I have to applaud Timothy Richley for the term "sheeple". As a citizen of the "Session's district, I can verify that the majority has definitely been sheeple in the past. Fed a constant duet of right wing pablum by the local daily and hate by the radio talk abusers and Fox, they generally vote a straight GOP ticket. Of course racism is a tremendous portion of their defensive mentality. But the progressive and open minded of you bloggers can take heart. Even in this hidebound and backward community there is a glimmer of hope. This spring there was a massive turnout in the Democratic primary. Hopefully we can maintain that enthusiasm. If we could just get the news about this hypocrite, such as his contacts with Abramoff, then there would be some hope that even the sheeple might revolt.

Posted by: Jim Reed | July 30, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

was it burlesque or was it a strip club? and does it really matter? what was the point of even doing an article about this? did he commit a crime, break a law, steal, etc? was he being just a human being? why the article?

Posted by: scott | July 30, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

The reason that this is a story is because of the hypocrisy of Sessions making such a sanctimonious big-deal out of Janet Jackson's Superbowl "wardrobe malfunction" and subsequently hosting a fundraiser at a topless club. A person who was honestly deeply appalled at seeing Janet Jackson's breast would not be hosting functions at a topless bar. On the other hand, a person who was a dishonest and shameless panderer would hold a fundraiser at a topless club.

Posted by: Craig | July 30, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

It's NOT the fact that he did this fundraiser at this particular establishment that bothers me. What DOES bother me is IF his opponent had done that, EVERY bit of media would have heard him complaining about it and broadcast it. However when HE does it, we RARELY hear about it. He didn't go to Las Vegas because of anything other that the fact if it was Dallas, the local media would be the first to know and he didn't want THAT kind of publicity. I just wonder who the /other attendees were? What do they cain is THEIR 'moral status'?

Posted by: dlsoops | July 30, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Here's a thought: maybe the constituents of these incorrigibles re-elect them because they don't believe the politician running against him/her will be any better. And, there is a definite negative to sending a freshman politician to congress. S/He won't have seniority and thereby will be less able to send pork projects back to their district.

Posted by: Koatz | July 30, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. Sessions should also stay in Vegas. He's a hypocrite and doesn't deserve to represent us. He didn't break any laws, but he did make it clear that the entire image he has sold to us, his constituents, is a lie.

Posted by: Texan | July 30, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: edfeeney | July 30, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Burlesques is raunchy, sexy and funny!! And it is coming back to mainstream entertainment. It is obvious that Sessions and his pals consider it a good time. After all what happens in Las Vegas stays in LasVegas!!!
You know though, it sounds awfully cheap, at $5300.00 to rent out a nightclub with live entertainment for the evening.
Did he get a real good deal on his sojourn into debauchery? UMM?

Posted by: CarmanK | July 30, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to the wild world of conservative-minded hypocrites.This guy and the bulk of his party should be thrown under the bus.They talk the talk,but never walk the walk.
See you in November.

Posted by: E Pluribus Unum | July 30, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Is there not a difference in feeling it inappropriate that Justin Timberlake simulated forcing himself on Ms. Jackson and stripping her on live television, in the midst of the most-watched program of the year, and taking paying supporters to a private function at a burlesque club? Or is it that Senator Sessions ought to portray himself as a prude forever if he regards the forced exposure of millions of Americans to the faux-rape of the Superbowl halftime show as inappropriate?

Posted by: Rich | July 30, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Rich, the faux rape during Superbowl halftime? Nice job carrying water for Sessions.

The Superbowl halftime show was fairly typical of most rock shows and hardly offensive, that is until the nipple-controversy. That was ill-advised but hardly worthy of outrage and grandstanding; but for a guy like Sessions, it was seen as an opportunity to burnish his right-wing moral bonafides and he jumped on it. The manner in which he whooped and hollered about that subject makes him a hypocrite for this latest stunt. I personally don't care if any politician goes to a legal show in Vegas, of any type no matter how nude, to raise money or do some politicking. Just don't do that AND grandstand about how offensive it is to your unsoiled soul.

Posted by: Adam | July 30, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I've never heard anything like it in my entire life!

A heterosexual Republican politician.

What happened to the old values?

Posted by: Eddie | July 30, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Down here, if you want to invite a Baptist to go fishing, you had better invite two. If you invite only one, he will drink all your beer.

Posted by: TXblackcloud | July 30, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Sounds more like a closet Methodist; the difference between us and other Protestants is that we will at least speak to each other in the liquor store.

Posted by: Buckaroo | July 30, 2008 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Our country is swarming with these hypocrits... we need a revolution. Obama isn't going to be anything different. He's already shown his true colors in regards to the telcoms immunity!

I know my vote doesn't count when you have the corrupt electoral over riding the public vote... I don't know why millions waste their time going to the polls. It is all hype and a dog and pony show! The electrates already know who the next Pres will be... The whole govt (local and federal) is corrupt and beyond repair! There is only one way to fix it! REVOLUTION!

Posted by: EdZ | July 31, 2008 6:59 AM | Report abuse

I have ceased to be surprised by the hypocrisy of most politicians--Dem or GOP. At least Democrats are generally more honest about their human foibles.

Posted by: | July 31, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I lived in Mesquite, Texas for over 30 years--a city Session "represents". He was always for beer, broads, and boisterous actions. A lifelong hypocrite, he attacked anyone and everyone who did not back his stalwartly, and condemned everyone's lifestyle but his own (and, no, streaking did not end with Pete when he was 19). He unseated John Bryant with a rapture of raw, racy, redundancies and outright lies, and he continues his charade to this day.

Posted by: Dr Arthur Frederick Ide | July 31, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

race card race card race card

Posted by: Anonymous | July 31, 2008 10:57 PM | Report abuse

If Republicans could just own up to their own sexuality and accept their needs and desires (as long as it is between consenting adults) what a much easier time it would be for us and them. Instead, their explanations are twisted and full of lies and are very hurtful and dangerous to society at large on too many levels. How often rReligion is the root of all evil.

Posted by: Brianna | August 1, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Sessions Bashing:

The Sleuth, that indubitable tracker of Rich scandal, has bullet-like, reigned in on a fund raising episode that took place last year. My concern is the timing, and the rationale, which has significantly displaced the honesty .. of the reporting.

Posted by: 3rd-Party Advocate | August 4, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

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