Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Knee-deep in the Big Muddy

Rep. William Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, says he is "perplexed" that one of his aides, Brett Pfeffer "pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aiding and abetting the solicitation of bribes" last week. Since some Democrats seem to believe that all accusations against Democrats are part of a "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy," let's instead take the word of a corrupt Democrat:

Brett Pfeffer, 37, told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III that a congressman, identified in court only as "Representative A," lobbied high-ranking officials in Nigeria and Ghana to use technology developed by a small U.S.-based telecommunication company and pressed the Export-Import Bank of the United States to approve loan guarantees. In exchange, Pfeffer said, the congressman demanded a share of the new company created to facilitate the deal. ...

"The congressman told me he would require 5 to 7 percent ownership of the company for his family. ... He would work with officials in Nigeria to help the business along and get it funded."

The guilty plea is the biggest development in the criminal investigationsince FBI agents raided Jefferson's homes in Washington and New Orleans inAugust 2005. At the same time, agents raided the Maryland home of NigerianVice President Atiku Abubakar with warrants seeking documents connectingAbubakar and his wife to Jefferson and the business deals. ...

Pfeffer faces up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. He was released on $50,000 bond and is expected to be sentenced in March. The Justice Department hailed the plea as a step toward ensuring public i ntegrity of elected officials. "Today this defendant admitted to a crime which, at its core, is a bribery scheme involving a public official," said Alice Fisher, head of the department's Public Integrity Section. "Such schemes deprive citizens of the integrity and the honest services expected of our government."

I suppose that once a corrupt Democrat gets caught and turns "snitch," he then becomes party to a partisan witch hunt, and he's no longer considered a Democrat, right? And this no doubt explains the perplexity of Mr. Jefferson:

"I am disappointed and in some ways perplexed by the developments. I can say to you as a matter of general fact I've been in public life for 25 years. I have never required, demanded, or accepted on behalf of myself or any member of my family or any third party, anything to perform a service for which I have been elected."

Yes, we can understand this disappointment, after Mr. Jefferson's heroic service to the people of New Orleans during the Katrina crisis. As documented by notorious right-winger Jake Tapper of ABC News:

Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.
On Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.
Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A five-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched.
Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. ...

Jefferson defended the expedition, saying he set out to see how residents were coping at the Superdome and in his neighborhood. He also insisted that he did not ask the National Guard to transport him.
"I did not seek the use of military assets to help me get around my city," Jefferson told ABC News. "There was shooting going on. There was sniping going on. They thought I should be escorted by some military guards, both to the convention center, the Superdome and uptown."
The water reached to the third step of Jefferson's house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson's front lawn so he wouldn't have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.
Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck.
"I don't think there is any explanation for an elected official using resources for their own personal use, when those resources should be doing search and rescue, or they should be helping with law enforcement in the city," said Jerry Hauer, a homeland security expert and ABC News consultant.
Jefferson said the trip was entirely appropriate. It took only a few minutes to retrieve his belongings, he said, and the truck stayed at his house for an hour in part to assist neighbors.
"This wasn't about me going to my house. It was about me going to my district," he said.


Now, of course, maybe officers of the Louisiana National Guard are all liars and Jake Tapper is just a pawn of the VRWC, and none of this actually happened. And, if you believe that, maybe you also believe Mr. Jefferson when he says, "I have never required, demanded, or accepted on behalf of myself or any member of my family or any third party, anything to perform a service for which I have been elected." In which case it's entirely possible that Jefferson's former aide has been convicted of soliciting a bribe that "Representative A" never accepted.

Anything is possible, right? But if you'll excuse me, I'm running late for a fact-finding mission to St. Andrews, Scotland, to research Native American tribal sovereignty issues and raise money for the Rehoboth Beach Lifeguards Association. Yeah, that's the ticket! And I'm taking along my lovely wife, Morgan Fairchild ...

-- MCCAIN