Breaking News - Jefferson Indicted!

Cross-posted from my (mostly) Katrina recovery blog, The Wayward Episcopalian: Nathan on New Orleans.

New Orleans' Congressman, Democrat Bill Jefferson, was finally indicted by a Grand Jury today. You'll forgive me for feeling smug. While in New Orleans in the fall, I volunteered for Karen Carter, his Democratic opponent in the 2006 election. He won, she lost, and lots of voters said, "Well if they were going to indict him, they would have done it by now! Clearly he didn't do anything wrong!" FBI probes do not work overnight, that should have been obvious.

It's sad that some of our Congressmen are corrupt. It's sad that it was finally a member of my party that got in trouble (although he's still not one of our leaders like DeLay or Libby, and the score is still at least 7-1). It's sad that New Orleans may lose a lot of seniority in Congress at a time when it needs it real bad. But it's a good thing that bad guys get caught and that corruption leads to jail.

H/T to robliberal for noting this was about to happen.

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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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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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No Leadership around New Orleans

Bush's treatment of post-Katrina New Orleans is outrageous, and it's curious why the city doesn't get more help, aid, and attention.  My gut on how politics works these days is that every issue requires a fight to push against the status quo, and every fight requires a set of leaders willing to work together to beat back the forces of inertia and wingnuttery.  It's almost always a tough and uphill battle, as the default right now in America is corruption, unaccountability, and error.

Apparently it was Sheriff Harry Lee (seen above in the Youtube snippet) who allowed William Jefferson's reelection. 

The final margin for Jefferson in Jefferson Parish was 71% to 39% - a margin that can be attributed to Sheriff Lee's furious political assault in the closing days of the campaign. Lee not only endorsed to Jefferson, but in the final days, urged Jefferson Parish residents to stay home and not vote. The final tally shows that while 28% of registered voters cast ballots in the primary, only 15% voted Saturday.

Lee was the Jefferson Parish leader who wouldn't allow fleeing residents to cross the bridge into his parish.  He exacted his revenge on Carter for drawing attention to him.  And then there were others.

Jefferson also had financial support from fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the endorsements of many African-American ministers, including his own pastor, the influential Bishop Paul Morton of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church. Also in his corner were the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO and the local teachers union.

There is no way that Jefferson can effectively advocate for New Orleans.  The people in that city desperately needed leadership, but they voted out of spite, mistrust, and bitterness, all of which they have a deep reason to feel, and feelings no one has any right to begrudge them.  And yet at the same time, the political establishment in New Orleans, and the voters, have spoken quite clearly.  And what they said is that corruption is perfectly reasonable, and that they no longer expect or want help from the Federal government.  

It's very sad.  Residents must really have no hope.

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