pidgin is not a multi-threaded program. i have someone else looking into this, unfortunately, they are not experiencing the same problem. they see that pidgin loads and when they send and receive IM's, more PID's are created but they go away almost instantly (as soon as the message is sent or received). they arent using vector, so it seems like its only a problem with vector.
whats even more interesting is that htop reports all the processes and gkrellm sees them too, but ps doesnt, top doesnt and pstree doesnt (pstree doesnt even show the first instance of pidgin).
EDIT: I just noticed the same problem with Firefox. When ever I open a new tab, another process opens up and doesnt go away, even after I close the tab. To remove the processes, I need to completely close down firefox.