In the wake of the "Bondage-gate" scandal, in which the Republican National Committee paid for wealthy young GOP donors to attend a lesbian-themed Hollywood night club, attention is turning to the National Republican Congressional Committee's own use of Las Vegas burlesque clubs to hold its fundraisers.
"We do a Las Vegas fundraiser every year," NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-AL) told a National Public Radio interviewer in July 2008. But when the interviewer described Forty Deuce, the venue for the most recent event, as a strip club, Sessions demurred.
"I've never seen that," he insisted. "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 gets naked. There's no nudity."
Washington Post gossip columnist Mary Ann Akers quickly picked up on Sessions' admission. "We had never heard of a member of Congress holding a fundraiser at a Las Vegas burlesque nightclub... until now," she wrote. "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."
Sessions does appear to have been correct about the lack of nudity. According to the same NPR interview, the women at the club are dancers, not strippers, and they never disrobe further than their underwear. But the burlesque show still appears to fall somewhat short of Republican family values. "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," Akers concluded.
In February 2009, Sessions held another NRCC fundraiser, this one at a club called the Tao. which Akers described as "a racy venue in Las Vegas whose Web site features come-hither looking women scantily clad in lingerie slithering all over each other."
A spokesman for the Democratic counterpart of the NRCC reacted at the time by criticizing the NRCC for being more eager to "party at Las Vegas night clubs ... than offer real solutions to the serious economic challenges facing our country." The NRCC, in turn, hit back by accusing Nancy Pelosi of running up "trillions in mounting debt."
Now, though, it appears that the issue of Sessions' fundraisers may be able to gain some traction -- or at least the Lone Star Project hopes so. The Texas-based group, which declares on its website that it is not affiliated with the Democratic Party, has been digging out dirt on Republican leaders since 2005.
It began by focusing on Tom DeLay but has also drawn attemtion to Pete Sessions' ties to Jack Abramoff, particularly his "activities on behalf of the government of Malaysia" at a time when Abramoff and his associates were extensively involved in lobbying on behalf of that government.
Now the Lone Star Project appears determined to make an issue of the fundraisers, and in the video below, it contrasts the anger of some Republican leaders over Bondage-gate with their complete silence when it comes to Sessions' far more successful fundraisers.