Federal Bribery Probe Haunts Louisiana Democrat in Run-off Election

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Plagued by a corruption probe, Louisiana Democratic Rep. William Jefferson faces a run-off election Saturday and is unlikely to gain the endorsement of U.S. House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, an aide to Pelosi told Cybercast News Service.

Jefferson will be opposed by another Democrat - State Rep. Karen Carter - in the run-off.

Jefferson is seeking a ninth term in the state's second congressional district, but he has had to deal with an on-going federal bribery investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) claims it found $90,000 in marked bills in Jefferson's freezer during a raid on his home.

Although the congressman has not been charged thus far, two of his associates have entered guilty pleas.

Investigators allege that Jefferson solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for using his influence to boost the business prospects for a cable television company and an Internet outfit in Nigeria and Ghana.

Earlier this year, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders decided to remove Jefferson from the House Ways and Means Committee pending completion of the investigation.

In affidavits, FBI agents have said they videotaped a financial exchange between Jefferson and another individual that involved a briefcase filled with $100,000. Most of this cash was allegedly found in the freezer of the congressman's Washington, D.C., home.

A Democratic aide to Pelosi, speaking on background, recalled that Jefferson had been asked to give up the committee position but indicated that the House Speaker-elect was not taking a position in the run-off.

If an endorsement was to have been given to either candidate, "it would have been given weeks ago, not two days out from the election," he said.

While the national Democratic Party has been reticent to make any formal endorsement, a representative from the campaign of Karen Carter said the decision to remove Jefferson from the House Ways and Means Committee was significant.

"It was a demonstrative action," said Cheron Brylski, a press secretary to Carter. "It was meant to show the Democratic leadership felt there should be a change. They don't find the incumbent acceptable."

Brylski said the investigation has also "incapacitated" Jefferson to the point where he has become ineffective. Brylski argued that at a time when Louisiana is still in crisis from Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson has been unable to deliver basic services to his congressional district.

"He's shunned, he's isolated," Brylski said.

The Louisiana state Democratic Party apparently agrees, having endorsed Carter.

For its part, the DNC is remaining neutral. When there are two Democratic candidates running against one another in a primary, the DNC bylaws stipulate that endorsements are withheld and a neutral position is assumed, said Amaya Smith, a spokesperson with DNC. "We will let the people of Louisiana decide," she said.

Carter's father, Ken Carter, said Friday his daughter was receiving support from both Democrats and Republicans at the local level who were inspired by her "activism" and commitment to the community.

"The whole issue is anti-corruption and bringing integrity back to the second congressional district," he said.

The Jefferson campaign has a jaundiced view of Carter's qualifications and questions whether or not she has a proven track record that would entitle her to "get promoted."

Melanie Roussell, communications director for the Jefferson campaign, claimed the congressman successfully secured $8 billion in tax relief and other financial breaks for the district following Hurricane Katrina.

Although she would not comment on the state Democratic Party's endorsement of Carter, Roussell told Cybercast News Service that Jefferson has received substantial support from local party officials as well as congressional colleagues such as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas).

Furthermore, she points out that Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has organized radio spots on behalf of Jefferson.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) is supporting Carter.

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