Crash­ing the party: Jef­fer­son’s sur­vival vexes Democrats on ethics

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Brian DeBose

Democrats are un­sure what to do about Rep. William J. Jef­fer­son if he re­mains in Congress.

The Louisiana Demo­crat, who was stripped of his Ways and Means Com­mit­tee seat by his cau­cus this sum­mer, is in a tough runoff elec­tion against state Rep. Karen Carter, a Demo­crat who was en­dorsed by the Louisiana State Demo­cratic Party.

Democrats re­fused to spec­u­late about Mr. Jef­fer­son’s fu­ture in the party be­fore the Dec. 9 elec­tion.

“We have to wait and see what the vot­ers of New Or­leans do,” said Jen­nifer Crider, spokes­woman for House Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the pre­sumed speaker in the 110th Congress.

Mrs. Pelosi, a Cal­i­for­nian who at­tacked Repub­li­cans on poor ethics and cor­rup­tion, made an ex­am­ple of Mr. Jef­fer­son af­ter a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the eight-term con­gress­man was made pub­lic.

A search war­rant af­fi­davit re­leased in May said Mr. Jef­fer­son had so­licited hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in bribes and dis­cussed pay­offs with African offi- cials. It also said he was in­volved in nu­mer­ous schemes to use his fam­ily mem­bers to hide busi­ness in­ter­ests in high-tech ven­tures he pro­moted.

FBI of­fi­cials said they found $90,000 in the freezer at Mr. Jef­fer­son’s home dur­ing a sting op­er­a­tion af­ter the Jus­tice De­part­ment ac­cused the con­gress­man of tak­ing $100,000 in bribe money from an in­for­mant.

Other Capi­tol Hill Democrats, who did not wish to be named, said Mr. Jef­fer­son should ex­pect noth­ing from Mrs. Pelosi or other party lead­ers.

“I don’t think he has any­thing com­ing his way,” one Demo­crat said.

Re­gard­less, Mr. Jef­fer­son is op­ti­mistic about his chances of re­tain­ing his seat.

“We will be re-elected, and we fully ex­pect to keep our se­nior­ity,” said of­fi­cials in Mr. Jef­fer­son’s of­fice.

Mrs. Carter, 36, placed sec­ond in Louisiana’s open pri­mary Nov. 7, with 22 per­cent of the vote. Mr. Jef­fer­son led the slate of 13 can­di­dates, re­ceiv­ing 30 per­cent of the vote. He is ex­pected to gain a large num­ber of the votes cast for state Sen. Der­rick Shep­herd, a Demo­crat who came in third with 18 per­cent.

Mean­while, mem­bers jock­ey­ing for lead­er­ship po­si­tions on com­mit­tees have largely ig­nored Mr. Jef­fer­son’s plight.

Ten House races have not been de­cided be­cause of re­counts in states in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, Florida, Con­necti­cut, North Carolina, New Mex­ico and Ge­or­gia, but Mr. Jef­fer­son’s race is the most trou­bling for Democrats.

If he wins, he likely will be re­main un­der a cloud of sus­pi­cion go­ing into the 110th Congress.

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