House Democrats Accused of Corruption, Too

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Democrats, quick to invoke the alleged "Republican culture of corruption," have a few members of their own party to worry about.

A liberal-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, on Wednesday urged the House ethics committee to investigate Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) for his alleged role in a conspiracy and bribery scheme and for misusing federal resources in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

Last fall, CREW named Jefferson as one of the 13 most corrupt Members of Congress. (Eleven were Republicans; the two Democrats singled out by CREW included Jefferson and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. See story.)

Because outsiders cannot file ethics complaints in Congress, CREW said it is seeking a House Member to forward its complaint against Jefferson to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

CREW said it based its complaint on information gleaned from the plea agreement of Brett Pfeffer, Jefferson's former legislative assistant.

In court documents, Pfeffer alleged that Jefferson used his position as a Member of Congress to promote a Nigerian business deal in return for favors bestowed on his relatives.

CREW also alleges that Rep. Jefferson improperly used federal resources in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, using National Guard troops to check on his home and retrieve some of his belongings.

"Rep. Jefferson's conduct shows a blatant disregard for the rule of law and the integrity of the House of Representatives," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, on Wednesday. "We urge a member of the House to ignore the long-standing ethics truce and file CREW's complaint with the House Ethics Committee today."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington describes itself as a progressive legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.

(An aside: Jefferson was the beneficiary of a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser held last month at party headquarters in Washington. A spokesman for the Republican Party said at the time the event demonstrated the hypocrisy behind Democrats' cries of a "Republican culture of corruption" in the nation's capital. See story.)

Jefferson isn't the only Democrat operating under a cloud.

A former aide to Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, last month re-filed a complaint alleging that the congressman forced her and another congressional staffer to babysit his children and run other personal errands when they worked for him several years ago.

The complaint also said Conyers ordered some of his staffers to work on his wife's campaign for the Detroit City Council.

And Rep. Alan Mollohan, a West Virginia Democrat, faces accusations of funneling taxpayer money to nonprofit organizations he helped create -- and which support him with campaign contributions.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times last week published stories about Mollohan's questionable behavior; and in an editorial this week, the New York Times singled out Mollohan as something of a test case for corruption-fighting Democrats.

The New York Times noted that Mollohan, the ranking Democrat on the House ethics panel, "has emerged as the latest example of the sort of shady dealings that have sent Congress plummeting in the public's estimation."

If Democrats want to claim the mantle of corruption fighters, the newspaper said, "they had better force Representative Mollohan to quit the panel."

See Earlier Stories:
House Dem Committed 250 Ethics Violations, Group Says (10 Apr. 2006)
Liberal Group Puts Two Democrats on Its 'Most Corrupt' List (26 Sept. 2005)
Liberal Group Wants Help in Filing Complaint Against Republican (9 Dec. 2005)
DNC Fund-Raiser Held for Pol Targeted in Federal Probe (9 Mar. 2006)

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.