- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released an ethics complaint yesterday against a congressman from Louisiana, charging that he played a role in a conspiracy and bribery scheme and misused federal resources in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, is one of a few congressional Democrats who have come under fire lately from misconduct charges. Former aides to John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, have said they were treated like personal gofers and valets and had to baby-sit his children and work on political campaigns among other chores, the Detroit Free Press and the weekly newspaper the Hill reported last month.

Federal investigators are looking into the finances of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. The story said Mr. Mollohan helped steer $178 million in federal money to nonprofit groups in his district run by people who are regular contributors to his political campaigns. Republicans promptly called for Mr. Mollohan to step down from his post as the top Democrat on the House ethics panel.

Mr. Jefferson is the subject of an ongoing investigation in which his former aide, Brett Pfeffer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official and aiding an abetting such bribery, states the complaint released yesterday. A U.S. District Court issued subpoenas to six Jefferson aides, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

The complaint, based largely on information in Mr. Pfeffer’s plea agreement as well as news reports, says Mr. Jefferson used his position to promote a Nigerian business deal in return for favors for various family members. In addition, Mr. Jefferson and his daughter, a state representative, both received campaign contributions from the chief executive officer of one of the companies involved in the deal.

Spokeswoman Naomi Seligman Steiner said the group is hoping a member of Congress will take action because outside organizations are banned from filing ethics complaints in Congress. So far, no legislator has volunteered to file the complaint.

A call to Mr. Jefferson’s office wasn’t returned.

Much of the corruption charges this year have centered on Republicans because of the ties some of them have to convicted ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, recently announced that he won’t return to Congress. He faced a tough re-election in light of a Texas indictment and questions over his ties to Abramoff.

This week, two more Republicans were thrown into the mix, when the Associated Press reported that Rep. Charles H. Taylor , North Carolina Republican, acted favorably on behalf of one of Abramoff’s clients, a month after Abramoff’s firm threw him a fundraiser. Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, also offered help around the time that he received donations from Abramoff’s clients.

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