The story I refuse to call Spygate keeps getting stranger and juicier all the time. It turns out that one of the guys at Sheriff Normand’s breakfast club wasn’t Judd Nelson but the private eye who found Wendy Three Names:
When U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s gumshoe, Robert Frenzel, staked out the Royal Blend coffee shop in Old Metairie the morning before Saturday’s gubernatorial primary, one of the men he wound up spying on was a PI himself, who had been hired to dig up dirt on Vitter.
In a state that’s nearly bankrupt, the first week of the runoff campaign has been dominated by a circuslike sideshow, as Vitter and his foes argue over the meaning of an explosion of espionage that feels a bit like a miniature Cold War being fought in Jefferson Parish and New Orleans. Vitter, a Republican, will face Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in a Nov. 21 runoff.
Frenzel actually was after John Cummings — the “man with the white beard” whom Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign had wanted him to watch — and Frenzel was right on his heels when Cummings entered the coffee shop.
As Cummings joined his regular coffee klatch at a large table, Frenzel sat down nearby. Among the others present were Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, state Sen. Danny Martiny and private eye Danny DeNoux.
Initial news accounts suggested that the Vitter campaign was most interested in Normand — a vociferous critic of the U.S. senator — but it’s possible that the campaign also had a keen interest in DeNoux, though it’s not clear Frenzel recognized him.
DeNoux now says he is the PI who recently located Wendy Ellis, a former prostitute who just before the election amplified claims she made in 2007 that she had a sexual relationship with Vitter in New Orleans years earlier, when he was a state representative and then a freshman congressman.
It was DeNoux who brought blogger Jason Brad Berry to Ellis. This resulted in Berry, a week before the Oct. 24 primary, posting videos on his website, www.theamericanzombie.com, that roiled the gubernatorial campaign. In them, Ellis claimed her relationship with Vitter was deeper and more complicated than she had suggested in 2007 interviews with The Times-Picayune and at a news conference organized by Hustler magazine that year.
DeNoux told The Advocate on Wednesday that he did the opposition research on Vitter for a “businessman,” whom he said he could not name. The businessman asked him to share his information with Berry, DeNoux said, adding that he did not know the blogger previously.
DeNoux said his client was not Cummings, a prominent trial attorney, large landowner in New Orleans and longtime foe of Vitter. DeNoux said Cummings is a friend of his but that he has never done paid work for him. DeNoux also said the client for the Vitter assignment was not an elected official and not the Democratic Party
In the upside down world of the Vitter scandal blotter, I think that DeNoux’s denial may mean that Cummings *is* his client. That’s what I’ve been hearing from Deep Blog and others for quite some time. I was reluctant to write about it before now because I want that pipeline open and unclogged. Btw, Danny DeNoux is a great name for a New Orleans shamus. We’ll get to the DeNouxment in a moment…
There are also anonymous emails floating around that claim that the Feds are investigating Team Vitter for spying on opponents. It’s just a rumor and all Deep Blog will say is that he/she/it has heard the same rumors. You can’t step outside in the Gret Stet of Louisiana without running into campaign gossip this year. That’s one reason this election is so freaking exciting.
Do I think the rumors are true? I’m not sure. But given what we know about Vitter, it’s quite possible that his gumshoes have done worse things than eavesdrop. The Vitter scandal blotter is getting more Nixonian all the time. Just remember: when Nixon ran for Governor, he lost.
I’ll give John Cummings, the man who may or may not have been the target of Vitter’s inept gumshoe, the last word:
“The stupid son of a bitch was supposed to find Santa Claus in the cafe; that’s the guy with the white beard,” Cummings said. “But you can tell David Vitter that he doesn’t get anything for Christmas. He’s been naughty.”
Cummings said he has had no beef with Vitter, noting the two attend the same church, St. Francis Xavier. “He’s a loner,” he said. “There’s something very, very strange about the man.”
I guess Cummings won’t be getting a Vitter tattoo on his back a la Roger Stone…