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Rep. William Jefferson (d-la) Is A Crook

Guest Naomi Seligman

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Guest Naomi Seligman

William Jefferson (D-LA) is an eighth-term Member of Congress, representing the 2nd district of Louisiana. Rep. Jefferson is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus, and the Congressional caucuses on Brazil and Nigeria. Rep. Jefferson's ethics problems stem from his business dealings and a misuse of federal resources.


Federal Investigation into Business Dealings

Rep. Jefferson is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. In August 2005, federal agents searched his home in New Orleans and his home and car in Washington, D.C., as well as the home and office of his campaign accountant in New Orleans. As part of the investigation, the U.S. home of the Vice President of Nigeria also was searched. During the raid on Rep. Jefferson's home, FBI agents apparently found a large amount of cash in the Congressman's freezer.


Federal subpoenas issued in the case indicate that investigators are seeking information about Rep. Jefferson's efforts to find investors to underwrite a deal to bring broadband service to approximately 200,000 people in Nigeria. iGate, a small technology company, has patented technology which, the company claims, can deliver voice, data and video lines faster and more cheaply than a digital line. The company was seeking financing to launch the project in Nigeria.


In what may or may not be a related matter, federal agents are investigating whether Rep. Jefferson illegally pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars of investors' money from business transactions. According to sources who spoke with The Washington Post, a high-tech company that was starting up in northern Virginia agreed to cooperate with the FBI and conversations with Rep. Jefferson were secretly recorded. Rep. Jefferson allegedly agreed to invest in the start-up company and use his congressional influence to bring in business.


The news reports indicate that Rep. Jefferson is under investigation for serious crimes. At this point, however, there is a lack of sufficient information for the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to begin its own investigation. Nonetheless, we suggest that the Committee keep a close eye on the case as it develops and, if the information so warrants, begin an investigation at a later date.


Use of the National Guard to Visit Home and Retrieve Property

Five days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, on September 2, 2005, Rep. Jefferson allegedly used National Guard troops to check in on his home and collect a few belongings – a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a large box. Military sources told ABC News that Rep. Jefferson asked the National Guard to take him on a tour of the flooded portion of his congressional district. Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard said that during the course of the tour, Rep. Jefferson asked that the truck stop at the Congressman's home. The Congressman entered his house and collected his belongings, returning to the truck, which was now stuck in the mud. The National Guard ultimately sent a second truck to rescue the first truck and Rep. Jefferson and his belongings were returned to the Superdome.


Rep. Jefferson explained that he had not sought military assistance in touring the city, but because of the gunfire, "[t]hey thought I should be escorted by some military guards." Rep. Jefferson claimed that he was curious about the condition of his house and that he would have been happy to go by himself.


House rules require members to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House." Certainly, at a time when the nation is facing on of its worst natural disasters ever and when New Orleans lacked the requisite federal resources to rescue all of its citizens in a timely manner, Rep. Jefferson's use of the National Guard to check on his house and retrieve belongings does not reflect creditably on the House.

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