June 5, 2007

Will The Democrats Split Over Dollar Bill?

Now that the other shoe has finally dropped on Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson, the next question is what the Democrats intend to do about him. Under indictment on sixteen counts of corruption, Jefferson represents just about everything against which the Democrats campaigned last year, with their attacks on the supposed "culture of corruption", and they'd like to be rid of the albatross. However, the Congressional Black Caucus smells a double standard, and they're not likely to go along with any plan that could railroad Jefferson out of the House without having been convicted first:

Democratic leaders fear that Rep. William J. Jefferson's indictment yesterday on racketeering and bribery charges, coming exactly one year after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered his ouster from the powerful Ways and Means Committee, could rekindle a smoldering dispute between the speaker and black lawmakers who were once pillars of her power.

For months, the Louisiana Democrat's mounting legal peril has bedeviled Democrats as they sought first to point to corruption as a tool to oust Republicans from control of Congress, then pressed for ethics and lobbying changes that they said would usher in a new era of clean politics on Capitol Hill. For every thrust Democrats made against the GOP, Republicans parried with Jefferson, saying problems in Congress were bipartisan.

Through it all, much of the Congressional Black Caucus has stood by Jefferson and against the Democratic leadership. And yesterday, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), a veteran caucus member, said it would be "as supportive of our colleague as possible, in terms of saying a person in America is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty."

The Democrats screwed this up when they supported Jefferson's re-election. They should have pulled their support in last year's midterms when it became obvious that Jefferson was corrupt. They could have easily selected someone else in the LA-02 and thrown enough money behind him or her to have avoided this situation now. Given where they are at the moment, it would have been money well spent.

After his re-election, Nancy Pelosi made it worse. She wanted to assign him to a significant committee to repair relations with the CBC, relations she damaged by removing him from the Ways and Means committee and hinting that he should resign last year. This year, she assigned him to the Homeland Security committee, and only got stopped by Republicans when they demanded a roll-call vote to put Jeffersons supporter on the record. They still have left that seat unfilled, as Pelosi has apparently never withdrawn the nomination.

The problem for the Democrats is that the CBC has a point -- or rather, two of them. First, Jefferson has not been convicted of anything, at least not yet. While Jefferson should never have had any committee assignments, and should be removed from the last one he has, the House should not expel him unless he receives some sort of due-process hearing. Either that means a trial, which may take a long time, or an ethics hearing, which will require Pelosi's endorsement and will invoke the wrath of the CBC all over again.

The second point involves the double standard the CBC recognizes. Allan Mollohan still retains his powerful position on the Appropriations Committee, despite an investigation into serious corruption issues by the DoJ, similar to Jefferson before the indictment. Pelosi never demanded his removal from Appropriations, and in this case the assignment is even more egregious, as Mollohan sits on the subcommittee that controls funding for the DoJ. Mollohan, however, is white, while Jefferson is black, and the CBC doesn't see much else separating the two cases.

Pelosi is in a jam, which will be made worse by John Boehner. He wants the Ethics Committee to review the indictment and make a recommendation on expulsion from the House for Jefferson. That's an overreach, but it still puts Pelosi in a vise. She either has to endorse that call and fuel the CBC's opposition to her, or fight it and wind up defending a man indicted on multiple counts of corruption. Either choice is a loser.


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Comments (15)

Posted by onlineanalyst | June 5, 2007 6:36 AM

Nancy Pelosi has a predilection for hanging out with the bad boys. (Add John Murtha to the list.) Growing up in the midst of dirty ward politics in Baltimore must have given her that acquired taste.

Get your broom out, Nancy.

Posted by Scott Malensek | June 5, 2007 7:44 AM

Culture of Corruption....BWAahahahahahaha!!!!!

Hey, Congressman, is that a popsicle in your freezer or FBI marked bills?

This is idiotic, and it's gonna be a campaign ad for Republicans across the nation next year.

Posted by MarkW | June 5, 2007 8:12 AM

Forcing the Democrats to vote on whether to expell Dollar Bill, would be the kind of political theater that the Democrats normally excell at.
Forcing them to decide which of their constituent groups they are going to offend is also a delicious irony, reminecent of the many stunts the Dems pulled on the Repubs, when they were in the minority.

In politics, taking the high road only results in the other side getting free shots at your unprotected belly.

Posted by bulbasaur | June 5, 2007 8:32 AM

Instead of circling the wagons around their ethical disgraces, why doesn't the democrat party focus instead on articulating their constructive vision for America?

Oh wait, I just now got it.


Posted by Labamigo | June 5, 2007 8:53 AM

I don't agree with you that Jefferson could have been easily defeated if the party had united behind him. No way.

Posted by MarkJ | June 5, 2007 9:05 AM

The case against Dollar Bill has obviously been concocted by a cabal of international Jewish bankers working in league with Chimpy McHalliburton, Hyman Rove, and Obi Wan Cheney.

To which I say:

You magnificent bastards, you've done it again!

Given the above, dare we expect that Nancy Pelosi will soon awaken one morning on her Sealy Posturepedic...only to find a horse's head tucked between her 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets?

Posted by Gary Gross | June 5, 2007 9:19 AM

The Jefferson debacle is only part of the Democrats' corruption. I write about Pelosi's, Murtha's & David Obey's refusal to follow the earmark reforms here.

I didn't think it possible for Republicans to look like misers. Sadly, this year's Democrats have succeeded in making last year's Republican look that way in comparison.

Posted by richard mcenroe | June 5, 2007 9:42 AM

MarkJ -- Mafiosi Pelosi is more likely to get whacked by the AARP now that it turns out she's connect to the Hillary's InfoUSA senior scam...

Posted by Kojiro Vance | June 5, 2007 9:54 AM

Cap'n - you don't know LA politics. Dollar Bill Jefferson holds the keys to New Orleans get out the vote machine. The Dems tried to run someone else, he beat her in a run-off. Katrina only made things worse by exporting the Dems who might have done something about old Cold Cash Jefferson. This left only the GOTV machine in charge down there.

Posted by Charles | June 5, 2007 10:05 AM

When Jefferson is convicted or pleads guilty is the appropriate time, given past uses of expulsion.

What he should do is resign, immediately. Unlike the case of George Bush and Alberto Gonzales, Nancy Pelosi isn't Jefferson's boss, and can't force a resignation.

Posted by David M | June 5, 2007 10:11 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/05/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by Richard Bottoms | June 5, 2007 1:36 PM

Oh please.

We Democrats don't give damn about Jefferson.

Believing this clown is going to "split the party" is the kind of wistful thinking you folks love to engage in.

Meanwhile conservative rats are scrambling off your sinking ship.

Say hello to irrelavance in 2008.

Posted by Beth | June 6, 2007 12:49 AM

"The Democrats screwed this up when they supported Jefferson's re-election. They should have pulled their support in last year's midterms when it became obvious that Jefferson was corrupt."

You're wrong on this. Eight Democrats ran against him, and two of those made it into the run-off against him. The state Democratic party supported one of them, Karen Carter, not Jefferson. Go look at the Louisiana Secretary of State's site for stats on the election: Jefferson won by just over 1000 votes in largely Democratic Orleans Parish. He won by 7000 votes in Jefferson Parish, which is largely white, Republican and conservative. The state GOP actively worked to elect him on the hope that he'd be indicted and then they could make another run at the office, rather than elect a liberal Democrat who could be in office several terms. So put a large portion of the blame where it belongs, on the conservative GOP voters.

Posted by Beth | June 6, 2007 12:56 AM

One more factor illustrates just how local politics is: Carter didn't get enough support from white Democrats in Jefferson Parish largely because of remarks she made in Spike Lee's documentary, "When the Levees Broke," criticizing Gretna police (a town in Jeff Parish) who used guns to prevent black people from crossing the Mississippi River Bridge after the levees flooded New Orleans. That incident has continued to cause division and rancor here, and it played a role in this election.

Posted by Lee Mason | June 6, 2007 4:25 PM

Man is driven by lust and greed and will always seek to take advantage of power and position to satisfy these urges. No one can make him a "Christian"---only persistent 'cameras' watching his every move, will keep us safe from him.