Pelosi, Jefferson, Mollohan: a little color

A piece in yesterday's Post recaps the ups and downs of the new Speaker's handling of the ethics question as Minority Leader, with some revelations (if true) of the behind-the-scenes action.

Pelosi's speech at the Caucus meeting that voted Dollar Bill off Ways and Means, for instance.

The big freeze (ha, ha!) that greeted Karen Carter's attempts to drum up support for her attempt to dump the Fridge in the LA-2 runoff.

No insight, unfortunately, into Mollohan's, somewhat different, treatment in response to his legal difficulties - he's now chairing the apps subcommittee responsible for funding the FBI, of course.

Ain't politics grand!

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LA-2: Pelosi Moves To Re-Block Jefferson From Ways and Means

I don't know how to tag this post other than LA-2, so there it is.  One of the big questions surrounding the re-election of Congressman Jefferson was would he, and the CBC, be able to claim some type of mandate to re-sit him on the poweful Ways and Means Committee?  Apparently, the answer is "no".

Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham has won a coveted seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced Tuesday. [...]

Davis, who is entering his third term, benefited from a decision by party leaders not to return Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson to the committee. Jefferson, who won a runoff election in his New Orleans district last week, is the subject of an FBI investigation in which agents say they found $90,000 in bribe money in a freezer at his Washington home.

I hadn't heard the decision not to return Jefferson to his previous post was official, but I guess this move all but makes it so.  While in NOLA, I heard some scuttlebut about a compromise that would have sat another Louisiana Congressman, Charles Melancon, in Jefferson's place.  Obviously that did not happen today.  This was one of the big problems with re-electing Jefferson, and one that may have been a bit too in the weeds for the average NOLA voter last Saturday.  A quick search of Davis's website for post-k leadership yielded little evidence of leadership on the issue, so I hope there is an understanding that the circumstances of his appointment bring with it new and unique responsibilities.  But again, post-k leadership has always been bigger than any individual representative -- it's going to have to be a priority set by the incoming Speaker, Majority Leader and presidential candidates pressing the issue.

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Threat or Opportunity

It was interesting to read that in Louisianna on Saturday, the voters of the 2nd Congressional District re-elected William "Cold cash" Jefferson by a resounding majority.  There has been a lot of speculation as to why this happened; the consensus is that the voters of the district view the federal government with the utmost in disrespect (after Katrina, who can blame them?).  Regardless of the reason, however, it's likely to be proven that they made a poor choice.  After the elections of 2000 and 2004, it should not be surprising that many voters make poor choices at times.

Many believe that Jefferson's election is a disaster for the democrats, as it will diminish the credibility of the democrats as the party of integrity, as opposed to the Republican culture of corruption.  All is not lost, however.  With every threat comes a hidden opportunity, and this case is no different.  The democrats have a golden opportunity to illustrate a real difference between a Democratic and Republican majority.

If, or more likely when, Jefferson is indicted, the Democrats will have two choices: act like Republicans by easing ethics rules, hand-picking more sympathetic committee members, or determining that actions were inappropriate but did not violate house rules, or act like the party that deserves to be in the majority by frying the bastard if the facts warrant.

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LA-2: Inside the War Room

Let's assume for a second that supporting Karen Carter was the right thing to do, and I think it was, there are a number of heroes who stepped up and did the right thing along the way.  Most notably, EMILY's List got involved in the race before they could have possibly suspected Karen's position on choice was going to be the focus of Jefferson and his allies' attacks.  They provided fundraising help that ultimately catapulted Karen to a cash advantage over Jefferson, top-quality researchers with presidential campaign experience, and communications assistance that helped control the message until the final days.  In my eyes, it seemed they essentially ran the campaign, not because they were outsiders who thought they knew better, but because they had the ability to take the "meta" to another level.  There was always a good balance between local knowledge and national expertise, one that just happened to come up short ... way shorter than anyone expected.

I saw polling data that showed Karen up 20 points with 3 weeks to go in the race.  I later found out that tracking polls showed her up several points heading into election day.  Both of those were obviously way off-the-mark.  So far off, in fact, that I sat in a hotel room with the press secretary on election night helping with talking points for a concession speech that was never even thought about before that moment.  There was a victory speech, for sure, but I think the loss (and its brutality) shocked pretty much everyone from the candidate to random supporters at the Double Tree Hotel on Saturday.

The "demographer" laid out a list of key precincts the campaign needed if they were to carry the day.  As the video shows, they were tracked throughout and seemed to hit their marks as the phone calls came in.  There was no panic, only enthusiasm in the "war room" as the final hour drew near.  But much like the pollster's results, the marks weren't even close to representative.

The video above hopefully ties together the paragraphs in this entry, one of my last on LA-2.  It's a view inside the campaign war room most folks (even those who work on campaigns) never get to see.  Many of the staffers in the room were part of the EMILY's List team; the posters on the wall were the key precincts as outlined by the campaign demographer; and as you can see, there is no panic.  Such little panic that they stopped recording precinct counts at 6 P.M., two hours before the polls closed.  To be sure, there were still folks out in the field delivering votes in key areas, but little did anyone know the race was long over by that point.  

Two more posts left from me on my experience in LA-2.  The first will be a campaign post-mortem: more looks from the inside, what we, the netroots, accomplished, and what we can learn moving forward the next time MyDD sends someone into the field.  The second will deal more with post-k reconstruction, making it a priority in the new Congress, and '08 leadership on the crisis.  Ultimately, helping the region is going to take more than any one representative can bring to the table -- be it Karen Carter or William Jefferson.  The unfortunate bi-product of this election is that the representation they do have is totally neutered because of his legal issues.  If the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are going to get the help they need, it's going to take presidential candidates adopting the issue -- and a Speaker/Majority Leader willing to make recovery a priority.

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Cong. William Jefferson Wins Runoff In LA-2 With Grassroots Support

Congressman William Jefferson of LA-2 won a near landslide victory over his runoff opponent state Rep.Karen Carter on Saturday. He carried Jefferson Parish with 71% of the vote and won significant pluralities in the African-American precincts in Orleans Parish.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune attributed Jefferson's victory to a well organized grassroots campaign. Ironically it was Carter who had attracted substantial support from netroots online activists in her well financed campaign that included a number of high profile endorsements. Carter outspent Jefferson 5 to 1 but the incumbent congressman had the support of some powerful political leaders including Mayor Ray Nagin and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee and ran a grassroots campaign that took him to churches and bars throughout the district. yId=48

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