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Indictment Sparks Ethics Battle in House

The legal woes of Rep. William Jefferson touched off a partisan war of ethics yesterday, as House Republicans hoped to score points on the issue following Jefferson's indictment Monday on 16 counts of bribery. He stands accused of accepting more than $500,000 in bribes.

Democrats moved to remove him from his post on the House Small Business Committee, but Jefferson beat them to the punch, submitting his resignation in a letter which included "no admission of guilt or culpability" in the matter. Jefferson had already been removed from his Ways and Means Committee seat by the Speaker Pelosi following the FBI raid which found $90,000 stashed in his freezer two years ago.

In short order, the House last night approved a Democratic motion that would make an ethics investigation automatic upon the indictment of any House member and then approved a Republican motion that could lead to Jefferson's expulsion.

The GOP resolution, offered by minority leader John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, referred Jefferson's case to the ethics committee, demanding that the panel report back on whether his expulsion is merited. The Democratic rule change, introduced by majority leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, would give the ethics committee 30 days after an indictment to initiate an investigation or explain why it declined.

Seeing the "Culture of Corruption" Republicans move quickly against the Democrats on the issue of ethics isn't surprising. They're still stinging from the Abramoff and DeLay scandals which contributed to their loss of control in the House and Senate in the 2006 election. DeLay attained leadership in the House by shaking down lobbyists and then using the money to buy the votes of House Republicans. Lobbyist Abramoff -- he just plain bought people.

Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Democrat of Ohio and chairwoman of the ethics committee, announced that her panel would reconvene an investigative subcommittee assembled last year to probe allegations against Jefferson.

Pressure mounted on Jefferson -- in Washington and in his New Orleans district -- to resign. The New Orleans Times-Picayune said he has "become a liability for his district and Louisiana."

The reaction in the African-American community was more mixed. Beverly McKenna, publisher and editor of the Tribune, the city's black newspaper, said she woke up yesterday and decided not to editorialize about the indictment. "This whole situation is so painful for me," she said. "The Jeffersons are good friends of mine."

For Republicans, Jefferson's indictment on 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, and bribery marked an opportunity to shift attention from their own ethics issues, which have nearly half a dozen GOP lawmakers under federal investigation and forced three members to resign.

Jefferson looks guilty as sin. Seeing the pack of Republican sinners up-in-arms promises to be an amusing sidebar as this story unfolds.


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Comments (5)

Who's John Galt?:

They're still stinging from the Abramoff and DeLay scandals which contributed to their loss of control in the House and Senate in the 2006 election.

It's a bit early for the Red Herring fallacy, isn't it, Lee? You usually stick with Ad Hominem and then move to Red Herring. That's okay, I understand that departures from routine can actually forestall dementia. I just hope it isn't too late for you. Although I wonder...

Lee Ward:

You disagree that the Abramoff and DeLay scandals cost the Republicans dearly in the last election then, WIJG? You don't believe the voting public still carries those same sentiments and conerns about corruption today?

I hardly think the culture of corruption has gone away. There's still plenty of work left to be done... like getting politicians like Jefferson off the playing field, which the Democrats are doing at a rapid pace.

Paul Hamilton:

One corrupt congressman does not a "culture" make. Jefferson must go, but the idea that the Republicans would try to tar the whole Democratic party with his wrongdoings after the DOZENS of scandals from their own ranks is laughable.

Concerned Student:

This assertion:

One corrupt congressman does not a "culture" make. Jefferson must go, but the idea that the Republicans would try to tar the whole Democratic party with his wrongdoings after the DOZENS of scandals from their own ranks is laughable.

is laughable in itself. How about Murtha, Feinstein, Reid (who is as well connected to Abramoff and has his own shady deals in NV), and Hastings? The fact that after the raid, Jefferson was allowed not only to stay but to possibly receive new appointments to committees shows the Democrats lack of seriousness in ridding their own ranks of corrupt politicians.

But come a Republican "corrupt" official along and they will be howling to the moon getting as much press play as possible. As I recall most "corrupt" Republican officials were either forced out on the party's wishes or left of their own accord acknowledging their wrongdoing. The fact that none of their Democrat colleagues can muster the courage as a party or individually shows the party's lack of ethics as a whole thereby negating their position to howl at all, relegating them, so as to not be hypocritical, to sit down and shut up.

I suggest the Democrat party take it like men, and put your money where your mouth is, call for Jefferson's resignation/boot him, and for that matter how about the the rest of the lot mentioned above. I am guessing since you yourself couldn't muster that in your comments on the articles above, instead opting to remark on the "partisan nature" of the Republicans calling for his resignation and playing the corruption card back on the Democrats, that neither will the dems and Jefferson will serve out his term and get forgotten to the sands of time as did Murtha, and seemingly Reid's, Hastings', and Feinstein's indiscretions did.

Lee Ward:

"The fact that after the raid, Jefferson was allowed not only to stay but to possibly receive new appointments to committees shows the Democrats lack of seriousness in ridding their own ranks of corrupt politicians."

Pelosi yanked Jefferson's Ways and Means Committee assignment immediately after the raid -- a fact conveniently left out of every right wing blog post I've read on this subject.

I think Pelosi made a major error in putting Jefferson up for the Homeland Security post, but I understand the politics at the time. Last January the Democrats were back in power for the first time in over a decade, and everyone on the left - everyone - had their hands out and were scrambling for a piece of the newly-baked power "pie".

Among those with their hands out were the black caucus, and Pelosi was under pressure to throw this bone to them. She acquiesced to the pressure - a major no-no in my book, but the fact remains that Jefferson never made it onto the committee. You can credit the stink raised by the Repubbies if you wish, but the fact remains -- Pelosi backed down.

DeLay wouldn't have backed down.

Comparing what Pelosi "almost did" to the rape and pillage by DeLay and Abdramoff is pure bullshit. The Republicns still have the solid lead on corruption, although I'll admit that Jefferson definitely hit a homer... but that's his personal doings.

The Republican corrupt "culture" created by DeLay and Ambramoff is many times worse - and it permeated all aspects of the legislative branch. What Jefferson did (I believe based on what I've read) was limited to his personal sphere of influence, and not indicative of a "culture of corruption" at all.

Big difference.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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