Topic: Society

Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson
(May 2006)

No need to belabor the obvious, but the Scoreboard would be seriously remiss not to salute the audacious dishonesty of Congressman William Jefferson. Jefferson, the subject of a Justice Department corruption probe, who continues to proclaim his innocence despite being caught in an FBI sting that produced videotape of him accepting $100,000 from an informer Jefferson thought was purchasing his legislative largesse. Later, an FBI search discovered $90,000 in Jefferson's freezer, stored in Tupperware…cold, hard…and apparently fresh!... cash. Jefferson, while not being able to come up with any explanation for these incriminating circumstances, nonetheless claims to be as pure as the driven snow, and even says he will run for re-election.

He deserves bonus points for brass, perhaps, but that's the best that can be claimed for him. Jefferson's situation is yet another example of how the "innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" standard becomes absurd when applied to more basic questions like "Can anyone trust this guy?" Whether Jefferson is ever convicted or not (and it is extremely likely that he will be), it is fair to say that the nation has an interest in rejecting legislators who accept bribes from undercover agents and store most of the money in the freezer. It has a further interest in avoiding legislators who have such little regard for the truth or respect for the intelligence of their constituents that they cannot bring themselves to admit egregious wrongdoing when it is, as they say on the tabloid TV shows, "caught on tape!"

Astoundingly, the representatives on both sides of the aisle (as well as GOP guru Newt Gingrich, who is obviously preparing to end his well-deserved Elba period) feel that Jefferson, though a crook, is also a victim of over-zealous law enforcement. They have taken up Jefferson's pathetic complaint that when Justice Department officials searched his congressional offices (under a duly obtained warrant) they violated the Constitution, by defying the Separation of Powers. The Justice Department points out that it only took the admittedly extraordinary measure after Jefferson refused to turn over official records it requested in connection with its probe. Jefferson stonewalled, but apparently felt no need to destroy or alter them, because the Feds would never breach the inner sanctum of a Congressman's office.

Oops!

The Scoreboard is sure it must have been reassuring for past representatives to know that they could torture and murder little boys and stuff them in their office closets without any fear of having the cops burst in at inopportune times, but really: what possible interest is served by setting off Congressional offices…or anywhere…as law enforcement-free zones? As long as officials don't search such offices until they are hot on the trail of a probable criminal who just happened to win an election, I can't imagine that James Madison will be picketing in his grave in protest. Undoubtedly, Madison and his fellow founders never considered that such low-lifes as William Jefferson, "Duke" Cunningham, James Trafficant and Tom DeLay would ever make it to the hallowed halls.

They certainly didn't foresee the Tupperware.

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