Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kickback Central?

Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) has been defiant in saying that he will not resign from office. That wont mean much as Jefferson's proclaimations of innocence are undermined by the discovery of additional kickback schemes.
But an affidavit used in last weekend's controversial search of Jefferson's Capitol Hill office stated that authorities are looking at "at least seven other" bribery schemes in which Jefferson "sought things of value in return for his performance of official acts."

Some of those schemes may be beyond the statute of limitations but could help show a pattern, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The records and materials seized during the FBI raid could shed more light on these areas, according to the affidavit.

Investigators are looking at a number of companies listed under the names of Jefferson, his wife or other relatives, according to court documents.

Since January, two people, including iGate's owner, Vernon L. Jackson, have pleaded guilty to bribing him.
This isn't just some fishing expedition by the DOJ and President, but clearly shows that the FBI is onto something significant in its ongoing investigation into Jefferson's conduct as a US Congressman, and perhaps as part of a wider corruption scheme. Foreign officials from Nigeria appear to be involved - and there have already been indictments.

Craig's Musings notes that despite the outcry over the FBI searching Jefferson's offices in the Rayburn HOB, the FBI had been trying to get Jefferson to comply with a subpoena for eight months before seeking a warrant from a federal judge to search the office. This wasn't some rush to judgment, but part of a complex investigation into the corrupt practices of a member of Congress. He also notes:
The latest news this morning is that officials at the Justice Department, including the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and Director of the FBI threatened to resign if the President ordered the return of documents seized in the raid. Instead of returning the documents the President order them to be sealed for 45 days so that parties on both sides could cool off and explore the constitutional issues.

To the American public it just looks like the Congress protecting one of its own. Jefferson may be innocent until proven guilty but it sure looks bad for him. When Nancy Pelosi asks a fellow Democrat to resign you know there is some truth to the charges.
Pelosi's request was rebuffed, and caused quite a commotion, especially in the Congressional Black Caucus, who saw that their own member was being treated differently than some of the other Democrats in Congress already under suspicion of criminal behavior - including Rep. Mollohan.

Now, there are reports that AG Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller threatened to resign if they weren't allowed to proceed in this investigation. From the information that we know thus far, it appears that they were right to stand behind their investigations - as it has already turned up $90,000 in cash found in Jefferson's freezer, and the search of his congressional office had a substantial probability of uncovering yet more evidence in support of a criminal case. Joe Gandelman has a thoughtful examination of the reliance on leaks to substantiate claims that Gonzales and Mueller threatened resignation, and fallout from the 45 day cooling off period, which is designed to cool political tempers - and doesn't have a legal effect. He also notes that Bush would have taken heat regardless of which way he sided on the issue of returning documents; returning the documents would undermine GOP efforts to show Democrats as being corrupt (taking the fire out of the Democrats 'culture of corruption' meme) and holding on to the documents would be another sign of the Executive expanding its power at the expense of Congress.

If you thought that the media couldn't screw up the coverage of Jefferson's malfeasance, you'd be wrong - CBS reported that Jefferson was a Republican. Naw, no bias there. Jefferson is a Louisiana Democrat.

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