Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jefferson blocked from committee seats

William Jefferson, D.-La., handily won his runoff for re-election, garnering 57 percent of the vote despite keeping $90,000 in FBI bribe money in his freezer.

Okay, the voters have spoken, even if what they said isn't particularly great. It happens from time to time: when I lived in New Jersey in the early 1990s, the mayor of Union City was re-elected while sitting in a jail cell.

But that doesn't mean all is forgiven, especially in the new ethics-conscious Democratic caucus.

House Democrats, insistent that they will hold lawmakers to higher standards, decided Tuesday that Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana will not return to an influential committee until a federal corruption investigation involving him is completed.

Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic Steering Committee had resolved that Jefferson, who last Saturday won a runoff election in his New Orleans district, will not be given back his spot on the Ways and Means Committee, the panel that determines tax and trade policies.

Good. Members shouldn't have committee seats taken away on mere allegations, but the weight of evidence in Jefferson's case justifies a vigorous response from the caucus. Especially when what's at stake is merely committee seats, not his seat in Congress.

The story also notes that Pelosi has a couple more headaches to deal with, in the person of James McDermott (who was criticized on Monday by the House ethics committee for letting reporters listen to an illegally taped phone call) and Alan Mollohan, who has been accused of using his position to enrich himself and his friends.

McDermott's transgression is both relatively minor (a leak to the press) and a decade old, so a rebuke strikes me as an appropriate sanction. He also faces a civil case over it, which could end up causing some real pain if he loses.

Mollohan was forced to quit the ethics committee because of the allegations against him, and he should remain off of it until they are resolved. The question at hand is whether he should be stripped of other posts. At the moment the facts don't sustain that: while like Jefferson he is the subject of a federal inquiry, in his case no concrete evidence has surfaced that clearly points to wrongdoing.

He should, however, not be given any post that would give him oversight over the FBI or other agencies that are investigating him.

, , , , ,

Labels: ,

8 Comments:

Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

I'm all for ethics, but let's face it, corruption isn't the exclusive domain of one party. The party in power will naturally be corrupted because they have more opportunities. It happened to the Dems and then it happened to the GOP. Both parties end up being sanctimonious about the other's corruption (this has been especially pervasive among the so-called "netroots" who are probably too young to remember Jim Wright, et. al)and it almost always comes back to haunt them.

12/15/2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Oh, agreed. The Dems were corrupted by 40 years of rule; in 1994 they were swept from power by the GOP largely because of that. The GOP held it together for a little while, but eventually they, too, were corrupted by power and money. So they, in turn, were swept out by the Dems.

In the long term, neither party is notably more ethical than the other. But in the short term, we can expect a party elected partly because of the corruption of their opponents to be cleaner than usual in order to avoid looking like hypocrites. And I have no qualms about giving them kudos when they do so and holding their feet to the fire when they don't, even if I don't believe that deep down they have really changed their stripes.

Six years from now will they still be so scrupulous? I'd bet money the answer is "no."

12/15/2006 11:06 AM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

Corruption is the exclusive domain of the people. In this case the good people of Louisiana who decided to send the country a great big "up yours" and re-elect Jefferson.

Yes, it was a message for anyone who may have missed that.

12/15/2006 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Sean----so much for your patting Pelosi on the back for removing Jefferson from his Committee. All she did was name him to another one----the Small Business Committee. I guess she thought people wouldn't notice what she did.

"Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who was removed by incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from the powerful Ways and Means Committee last year, will serve on the Small Business Committee pending a vote by the full Democratic caucus, according to a Pelosi release."

JP5

12/15/2006 8:30 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

JP5: I think he still has his Budget committee seat, too.

I don't mind him keeping minor seats; after all, he hasn't been charged with anything yet. It's a matter of deciding what the appropriate punishment is, given that.

It's a matter of opinion whether the Budget seat is a major or minor post. Considering it has 39 members and he isn't even close to being the ranking member, I'd argue not.

12/16/2006 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh geez. Now we're down to the semantics game of "minor vs. major" before saying a Democrat should be off a Committee or not. Wow, I never saw that much thought go into whether a Republican should stay on a Committee----ANY Committee when some questions of unethical or unlawful behavior arose. But----I know----there are two sets of standards, apparently.

JP5

12/18/2006 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

I guess we now get two years of whining Republicans complaining about how unfair Democrats are to Republicans, a la Anonymous.

12/18/2006 9:30 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

And I don't recall Lott or DeLay being stripped of their committee seats -- merely being forced out of their leadership positions. And in the case of DeLay, that was only *after* he was indicted.

Same with Blunt -- no action until he pleaded guilty.

I think Jefferson is being held to a higher standard -- and that's a good thing.

12/18/2006 9:49 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home