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Years later, the 'D.C. Madam' scandal is relevant once more

The scandal surrounding the "D.C. Madam" may seem like old news, but it may be poised to shake up the 2016 race.
People walk past the U.S. Capitol dome in the hours before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
People walk past the U.S. Capitol dome in the hours before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016.

The former attorney for the "D.C. Madam" has asked the United States Supreme Court to allow him to release records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey's escort service, including customer names, addresses and Social Security numbers, because they allegedly could affect the 2016 presidential election. In an application to the high court, filed Monday, Montgomery Blair Sibley is asking to be released from a judge's 2007 restraining order which prohibited him from sharing Palfrey's telephone records, during the much-publicized run-up to her federal trial for racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud. And, if the Supreme Court won't hear his argument, Sibley says he will release the identifying information of Palfrey's customers.

It's been a long while since this story was in the news, so before we get into why this may matter to the 2016 presidential race, it's probably worth recapping some of the forgotten details.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey ran a DC-area escort service for several years, before getting caught by the police. As part of her legal defense, Palfrey's lawyers said they would expose the service's client list -- not by releasing a list of names, but by releasing phone records.
One of those numbers, we now know, was traced back to Louisiana's right-wing Republican senator, David Vitter, who ran on a "family values" platform.
But what's easy to forget nearly a decade later is that the matter wasn't fully resolved: the full phone records were never released.
Palfrey was eventually convicted, and in 2008, she committed suicide. Her attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, says he's the sole legal custodian of the escort service's phone records, which he still has, and which he's now eager to release.
So why doesn't he just hold a press conference and share the materials? Because in 2007, as part of the case, a judge issued a court order, keeping those phone records under wraps.
Sibley, however, now wants to release the documents, and in fact, believes it's in the public's interest for him to do so. As Rachel explained last night, Sibley argued in his court filings that the materials from the D.C. Madam case "contain information relevant to the  upcoming presidential election."
In his latest filing with the Supreme Court, the lawyer added, "Time is of the essence. Given the significance of the upcoming political primaries and caucuses, in the looming Republican and Democratic conventions on July 18th and July 25th respectively, and given the impact of the presently sealed from the public record that this attorney seeks to release, upon those electoral deliberations, expedited resolution to this application is incumbent upon this court."
Sibley went on to argue, "The delay by this court and resolution of this application in hindsight will intentionally favor one presidential candidate over others by protecting that candidate from the release of the D.C. madam phone records, which the attorney maintains are relevant to this election cycle."
The attorney added that he may release the materials fairly soon, whether the court gives him permission or not.
It's the kind of story that raises all kinds of questions, for which there are no publicly available answers. But as we've seen, the D.C. Madam scandal has already affected many lives, and its political significance was obvious when Vitter lost his gubernatorial election last fall by double digits.
All of this appears likely to play out over the next two weeks. It's not getting a lot of media attention just yet, but it's worth keeping an eye on this one.