U.S. Rep. William Jefferson easily defeated his fellow Democratic opponent in a runoff election Saturday, despite an ongoing federal bribery investigation.
In complete but unofficial returns, Jefferson, Louisiana's first black congressman since Reconstruction, received 57 percent of the vote over state Rep. Karen Carter, who had 43 percent.
You probably remember Jefferson. He's the charming fellow who the FBI said was getting dirty money from tel-com companies who wanted some hot contracts in Africa. Being on the House Ways and Means Committee, Jefferson was in a good position to help out. The Feds turned up some subtle hints that perhaps Jefferson was up to no good. Subtle hints like... oh... say, $90,000 dollars in cash wrapped in tin foil found in his freezer, right after the telcoms told the FBI they'd given him $100,000.
Granted, Jefferson hasn't been officially indicted yet, say nothing of convicted. And in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. But let's face the facts - when you run for Federal office, we tend to hold you to a bit of a higher standard. Even if we can delude ourselves into thinking that the money in the freezer was his wife's bingo winnings, that's simply too damaging. Once again, the Democrats ran a campaign based largely on cleaning up the corruption of the GOP in Washington. And now they've got Jefferson hanging around their necks like an albatross. It's a big stick that the Republicans can hold over the Dems' heads.
"Hey, have you seen Jefferson? We were thinking of having a barbecue this weekend and we wanted to invite him over. We hear he's got some prime cuts in his freezer."
It seems almost a certainty that the Feds will finish their investigation and Jefferson will be indicted and brought down. Then either the Governor will have to appoint somebody else to finish his term, or a special election will need to be held. (Depending on when it happens.) Either way, Carter is probably going to get the nod. She was running to become the first black woman ever elected to Congress from Louisiana and has a lot going for her. But it plays out this way, even if she gets in there will always be an asterisk by her name now. "Oh, yeah... Carter. She replaced that guy with all the bribe money in his icebox, right?"
Pelosi at least had the sense to take Jefferson off of Ways and Means when this all came out, but if he cared one bit about the people in his district, or the Democratic Party, or for anyone but himself, he'd have stepped down at once. Even if he was actually somehow innocent, this was too much damage to do the Dems during such a perilous period in the political scene. This just can't end well.
On a related note, I'd like to forestall any more comments about why I seem to be "picking on Democrats" lately. I got an e-mail this weekend from a Dem asking why I was "suddenly" spouting off against the Democratic Party and talking the "Republican line" now. Well, I'm not.
Ron and I agree on some things and quite often disagree on others. We regularly debate our differences right here on these pages and this is to the benefit (or at least I'd like to think so) of both of us and our readers as well. But there's one thing I'm confident that we both agree on 100%.
I don't care if you have an "R" or a "D" after your name. I don't care what color we've crayoned in your state on the national electoral map. I don't care if you're white or black or red, yellow or green. I don't care what religion, if any, you espouse in your personal life. But when you stand up and declare that you want to run for national office - to control the spending of OUR tax dollars - to make the laws we will have to follow - to mold the policy of our country, both foreign and domestic, which affects each and every one of us...
... we'll be watching. And nobody gets a free pass. Most of these people in Congress, and certainly the clowns in the White House, have given me absolutely zero reason not to look at any of their actions with a jaundiced eye these past few years. Maybe... just maybe... if you spend a year or so actually doing the jobs we pay you to do in our best interest, I may start cutting some slack and give you the benefit of the doubt on the occasional close call. But for now?
We'll be watching.