DNC Fund-Raiser Held for Pol Targeted in Federal Probe

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A Louisiana Democrat who is said to be the target of a federal probe and has been named one of "the most corrupt members of Congress" by a liberal watchdog group was the beneficiary of a fund-raiser held Wednesday at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

A spokesman for the Republican Party said the event shows the hypocrisy behind Democrats' cries of a "Republican culture of corruption" in the nation's capital.

The fund-raiser at the Democratic headquarters was for the benefit of Rep. William Jefferson, a seven-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is reportedly being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for possible bribery in exchange for promoting business deals in Africa.

In addition, Brett Pfeffer -- the congressman's former legislative director -- pleaded guilty on Jan. 11, for his involvement in a corruption scheme involving an Internet company being set up in Nigeria. Since then, Pfeffer has reportedly been cooperating with the federal grand jury investigating possible charges against his 58-year-old former boss.

Jefferson, who in 1990 was elected as Louisiana's first black congressman since Reconstruction and serves on the influential House Budget and Ways and Means committees, has denied any wrongdoing.

In January, a Cybercast News Service investigation uncovered a possible conflict of interest between Jefferson's post as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and his connection to a group that received a $290,000 grant to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Even Jefferson's relationship with the CBCF -- which was established in 1976 "as a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy, research and educational institute" -- became unclear this week when the organization's website welcomed Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) as its new chairman with no mention of Jefferson.

CBCF President Dan Tharpe told Cybercast News Service that the group's chairmen serve three-year terms. "Our board positions are term-limited, so after you serve two terms, you can't serve any more."

Tharpe added that Jefferson's second term "expired at our annual meeting of the board, which was in February," and Meek's new term began on March 1.

However, Jefferson was elected CBCF chairman on March 7, 2001, according to a press release from Jefferson's congressional office. Therefore, he served only five years as the group's chair instead of the six referenced by Tharpe.

Several calls to the CBCF seeking clarification on Jefferson's tenure as chairman were not returned by press time.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) included Jefferson on its list of the "13 most corrupt members of Congress last September.

Jefferson had recently made headlines when National Guard troops escorted him to his flooded home in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, then waited for him to remove his personal belongings even as life-and-death rescue efforts were going on all around them.

CREW, which describes itself as "a progressive legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions," also criticized such GOP senators as Bill Frist of Tennessee, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Conrad Burns of Montana in its report.

Regarding Jefferson's March 8 fund-raiser, CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan told Cybercast News Service in an email statement: "It is outrageous that the Democrats will talk endlessly about corruption until it affects them. Then, they have no comment."

Ed Patru, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, contrasted the event for Jefferson with the repeated assertion by Democratic officials that GOP control of the House and the Senate has resulted in a "culture of corruption" in Washington.

"Whatever national Democrats lack in the way of ideas and competent candidates, they more than make up for it with their hypocrisy," he told Cybercast News Service.

"It would be only fitting if federal agents had shown up at his fund-raiser," Patru added.

Jefferson's problems are not confined to the legal arena. The congressman hails from Louisiana's 2nd District, which was drawn specifically to improve minority representation in the U.S. House.

However, since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region last fall, a large number of the district's 500,000 residents are believed to have left the area, raising the possibility that another candidate -- including a white Democrat or a Republican -- could take the seat in this year's election.

Repeated calls to the DNC and Jefferson's congressional staff seeking comment for this article were not returned by press time.

See Earlier Stories:
Congressman Linked to Katrina Charity Controversy (Jan. 18, 2006)
Dems Say 'America Can Do Better' by Electing Them in 2006 (Nov. 11, 2005)
Liberal Group Puts Two Democrats on Its 'Most Corrupt' List (Sept. 26, 2005)

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