- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

Embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson yesterday said he will not resign his seat as government officials probe his ethical conduct. He apologized to his constituents for having to endure negative headlines and asserted: “I certainly did not sell my office.”

The Louisiana Democrat, who has not been charged with a crime, criticized the bribery investigation that already has led to guilty pleas from two of his associates.

“I wish to say emphatically that in all of my actions here under scrutiny, that I never intended to dishonor my office, or you, the public, and I certainly did not sell my office,” Mr. Jefferson said yesterday in front of his New Orleans district office.

Mr. Jefferson’s associates testified the congressman took bribes in exchange for lobbying Nigerian government officials on behalf of IGate, a Louisville, Ky.-based technology firm that wanted to operate a broadband network in Africa.

Vernon Jackson, chief executive of IGate, pleaded guilty earlier this month and said he paid Mr. Jefferson more than $400,000 in bribes. He testified that he and Mr. Jefferson made a bribery arrangement lasting more than four years that resulted in at least one government contract.

A former aide of Mr. Jefferson’s, Brett Pfeffer, in January pleaded guilty to helping to bribe a public official.

The congressman was not named in court documents, but can be clearly identified in them. The records also indicate at least one witness in the case wore a wire when speaking to Mr. Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson, 59, defended his actions and said the government is portraying the facts in the “worst possible light.”

“But I am prepared to answer these charges formally when and if the time comes,” he said, suggesting his friends who made guilty pleas betrayed his loyalty and were giving in to government pressure.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland each said last week the ethics panel should investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan said yesterday he is reviewing his financial-disclosure statements and is preparing an analysis of his real estate transactions in relation to a probe into his ethical conduct.

The West Virginia Democrat has been accused of directing $178 million to nonprofits in his district whose leaders donated to his campaigns. He has denied any wrongdoing, but last month stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the House ethics panel.

“I remain confident in the fundamental accuracy of my prior financial-disclosure statements and am eager to fully respond to the questions that have been asked,” he said.

The news from both Democrats comes amid multiple scandals involving Republicans brewing on Capitol Hill, several of whom are either under investigation or are expected to be implicated in probes in the coming months.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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