- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

Rep. William J. Jefferson has been asked by the House Democratic leader to step down from the Ways and Means Committee owing to the lingering FBI bribery investigation, but the Louisiana Democrat has refused and won the support of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

“Mr. Jefferson has not been charged with anything, so to forcibly remove him from a seat on the Ways and Means Committee would be unprecedented,” the CBC said in a statement.

The 42 House members and one senator in the black caucus have not publicly discussed the scandal surrounding one of their own, but several staffers of CBC members have told The Washington Times that some lawmakers see a double standard in the resignation demand by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

The staffers said that she has made no similar demand for Rep. Allan B. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat, who also is involved in an ethics scandal, to step aside from the House Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Jefferson has been upset with Mrs. Pelosi since she rejected his 2002 request to become chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in favor of her fellow California Democrat, the now-deceased Rep. Robert T. Matsui, who seconded her candidacy to become the party leader.

Mr. Jefferson has proclaimed that he is not guilty in the bribery case and has not been charged, but a former staffer and two associates have pleaded guilty to bribing him and helping his family members’ business interests in Africa in exchange for favors. The FBI raided his office last month, touching off a tense battle between Congress and the Justice Department.

Mrs. Pelosi said she asked Mr. Jefferson to step down “in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus.” But she has not moved to remove him forcibly and likely will not, said a Democrat staffer, because that would take a full vote of the House.

“She could also ask for a vote of no confidence by the entire Democratic Caucus,” the staffer said, but added that this also is unlikely.

The Jefferson bribery investigation comes while Democrats have tried to tag the Republican majority as one engaged in a “culture of corruption” and “unethical behavior.” But the issue has also caused problems internally because of the perceived disparity in the way Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Mollohan are being disciplined, said some staffers of CBC members.

A conservative group in West Virginia called for an investigation into Mr. Mollohan’s dealings with a distant cousin, who used his connection to the congressman to win work with a nonprofit that Mr. Mollohan established and a federal contract in his district that was pulled for noncompliance in the late 1990s.

The cousin, Joseph L. Jarvis Jr., owes the nonprofit $67,681 in unpaid rent, but he jointly owns 27 condominiums in the Remington, a building in Washington, worth $8 million. In addition, the inquiries delve into other foundations that Mr. Mollohan has established that collectively have received millions in federal tax dollars through the appropriations process.

Despite the apparent smell of pork-spending for personal gain, Mr. Mollohan has not been asked to step down from his seat on the House Appropriations Committee.

A Democratic House staffer said the cases are different, noting that Mr. Mollohan “cooperated” with the House leadership and voluntarily gave up his spot as ranking Democrat on the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee. The staffer also noted that the FBI has refused to confirm that Mr. Mollohan is being investigated, that no associates or staffers have pleaded guilty to anything and that there are no reports that he had been caught on tape taking bribes or making deals.

The black caucus, however, is not so sure that that removes the perception of a double standard, because Mr. Mollohan’s position as an appropriator is a key part of the investigation.

“They basically asked him to step down from ethics, and he said, ‘Thank you,’” one staffer said.

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