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Video killed the radio star, the song tells us, and it holds its dangers for politicians on the take as well. The AP reports that the FBI has video of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) taking bribes, the latest in a series of setbacks to Democratic attempts to paint corruption as a one-party problem:
A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.
At one audiotaped meeting, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company's deal for work in Africa.
As Jefferson and the informant passed notes about what percentage the lawmaker's family might receive, the congressman "began laughing and said, 'All these damn notes we're writing to each other as if we're talking, as if the FBI is watching,'" according to the affidavit. ...
As for the $100,000, the government says Jefferson got the money in a leather briefcase last July 30 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington. The plan was for the lawmaker to use the cash to bribe a high-ranking Nigerian official — the name is blacked out in the court document — to ensure the success of a business deal in that country, the affidavit said.
All but $10,000 was recovered on Aug. 3 when the FBI searched Jefferson's home in Washington. The money was stuffed in his freezer, wrapped in $10,000 packs and concealed in food containers and aluminum foil.
I've heard of cold, hard cash before, but I didn't think that politicians took that literally.
Jefferson has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing, but the FBI's investigation of Jefferson has been widely known for weeks. The FBI searched the Capitol Hill offices of both Jefferson and Robert Ney (R-OH) this weekend in relation to parallel probes, and the affadavit that accompanied the Jefferson search revealed much about the government's case. None of it looks good for Jefferson, especially the part where he takes a suitcase full of cash out of an informant's car and loads it into his own, himself.
Jefferson may not yet be charged, but if the AP report is correct and the feds found that cash inside his freezer, charges won't be long in coming.
UPDATE: CQ reader Douglas S notes that another Jefferson story might have some bearing on this search:
Sept. 13, 2005 — Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings — even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.
On Sept. 2 — five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken. ...
The water reached to the third step of Jefferson's house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson's front lawn so he wouldn't have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.
Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck.
I noted this story when it first appeared. At the time, most people considered this an example of petty corruption and tremendous arrogance. It does not surprise in the least that one who indulges in petty corruption also engages in it on a much more ambitious scale. It certainly seems tempting to believe that either the suitcases or the mysterious mini-fridge-sized box might have something to do with the bribery.
Did Jefferson hijack the relief effort to get his cash out of the flood? Perhaps Jefferson might one day tell us.Sphere It View blog reactions
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