Our Views: Scandal touches whole state

In the fall, in electing political newcomer Vance McAllister to Congress, many north Louisiana voters probably assumed they’d be sending a breath of fresh air to Capitol Hill. Instead, McAllister’s constituents find themselves at the center of a scandal that seems wearily familiar.

This week, after a video surfaced showing McAllister in a deep kiss with one of his aides, the freshman congressman confessed to marital infidelity and asked for forgiveness. McAllister’s behavior is especially disappointing given the emphasis he placed on family values in promoting his candidacy.

But McAllister’s infidelity has wider implications beyond his household. Louisiana has typically relied more heavily than most states on congressional clout to advance its interests. The controversy now surrounding McAllister compromises his ability to build useful relationships with his fellow members of Congress. That’s a tragedy for everyone in Louisiana, not just residents of McAllister’s congressional district.

McAllister’s infidelity raises other questions. Like so many politicians, McAllister confessed to his indiscretion only after publicly revealed evidence of his misconduct left him little choice but to admit fault. If the congressman has other moral failings that might seriously hamper his ability to serve in Congress, he should let voters know now.

Of equal concern is the fact that McAllister apparently had a romantic relationship with someone who was a member of his staff — a woman identified in news reports as Melissa Anne Peacock. Voters might reasonably wonder if Peacock was hired at public expense to accommodate a personal connection with McAllister, and not because of the work she could do for taxpayers. According the news reports, Peacock was removed from McAllister’s staff payroll after the scandal broke.

Voters deserve clarity on these issues. McAllister has taken the first step in admitting fault, but he has more to account for.