U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.
The fallout from an FBI investigation into allegations of bribery – and the $90,000 in cash allegedly recovered from his freezer – apparently has U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, battling for his political future.
Not only are there about a dozen challengers vying for his seat, which he’s held since the early 1990s, but three of the state’s former top Democrats have endorsed his chief opponent, State Rep. Karen Carter.
That endorsement came from former U.S. Sens. John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston and former U.S. Rep. Chris John, D-Crowley in just recent days.
Jefferson, who denies any wrongdoing in connection with an FBI investigation into bribery and African oil-property and high-tech deal-making, is trying for his ninth two-year term. He hasn’t been charged with any crime but two men who say they bribed Jefferson or helped in a bribe already have pleaded guilty and been sent to prison.
According to The Advocate University of New Orleans political scientist Susan Howell said such an endorsement signals trouble, since an incumbent usually is given that honor.
Jefferson’s spokeswoman, Melanie Roussell, however, dismissed the talk.
“This isn’t going to be won in Washington,” she said.
The Nov. 7 election will be the first time Jefferson has had a serious challenge, officials said. In Louisiana, there’s an open primary system where all candidates, 13 in this case, will appear on the ballot. If the top vote-getter doesn’t collect 50 percent of the ballots, the top two will face a runoff later.
There are three Republicans and a Libertarian joining eight Democrats in challenging Jefferson, but a report in the All Headline News said the seat likely will remain in Democratic hands.
“That district is not likely to shift the balance of power in the House. If Jefferson loses, his successor will most likely be a Democrat,” Hastings Wyman of the Southern Political Report told the news group.
Meanwhile, Jefferson is getting a little assistance in his battle over the FBI raid on his congressional office in May.
Former House Speakers Newt Gingrich, a Republican, and Democrat Tom Foley, have notified a federal court in Washington that they want to comment on the case. They will be joining another Republican, former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, according to a report.
The leaders say they need to protect the integrity of congressional offices against raids by law enforcement. That may be a growing problem, because according to the New York Daily News there have been so many allegations of corruption on Capitol Hill the FBI is tripling the teams assigned to investigate lobbyists, lawmakers and others.
The report said the FBI now has assigned 37 agents full-time to the region. That follows the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal as well as others. The agency said there now are more than 600 agents nationwide investigating public servants in 2,200 ongoing cases.
Among subjects being investigated is whether Jefferson took bribes from the owner of iGate, Inc., a communications corporation, in exchange for setting up deals for that company in Africa. Authorities in Africa have reported that the U.S. Justice Department is seeking from Nigerian authorities documents and information “in relation to the official acts of the congressman.”
A Paris-based newsletter called African Energy Intelligence also reported that there are investigations into seven cases involving “oil groups seeking to establish themselves” in Nigeria and other nations. The report said Jefferson frequently met the leaders of those nations.
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