Bye-bye, Mr. Jefferson

Jefferson has to quit. And if (when) he doesn’t, the Democrats in the House have to dump him.

Kevin Drum is right: Having been caught on videotape taking packages of $100 bills, and having $90,000 in $100s found inside his freezer in an FBI raid, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana must quit.

But he probably won’t.

Then it will be up to his Democratic colleagues to show that they aren’t as tolerant of corruption as the Republicans. They can expel Jefferson from the Democratic Caucus and thereby strip him of his committee assignments. And Howard Berman, as the new ranking Democrat on House Ethics, can demand immediate hearings on the question of Jefferson’s expulsion from the House.

(Actually, they probably wouldn’t have to follow through; a convincing threat of expulsion would likely induce Jefferson to do the right thing.)

Of course Jefferson’s corruption can’t hold a candle to either the DeLay/Abramoff connection or the Cunningham/Lewis/God-knows-who-else connection to crooked defense contractors. But it’s important for the Democrats in the House to demonstrate that they aren’t as tolerant of corruption as their counterparts across the aisle.

The difference between Blue Blogistan’s reaction to Jefferson and Red Blogistan’s reaction to DeLay is encouraging. Jefferson is getting precisely zero support. But we need some follow-through from our elected officials.

If we want the voters to perceive a difference between the parties, there needs to be a difference.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

15 thoughts on “Bye-bye, Mr. Jefferson”

  1. Dean should go on TV and announce that his membership of the Democratic Party has been suspended sine die, and that he should stop acting like a Republican and resign, already!!

  2. Cash, Lies and Videotape

    Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman agree that Rep. William Jefferson must quit. Meanwhile, and after the search of his Congressional office by the FBI, Michael Galien @ Liberty and Justice notices a sudden respect for separation of powers. Update -…

  3. Bribery and kickbacks are just as repugnant, perhaps more so, for Dems than the Republicans. We actually expect it from them, but we are supposed to be taking the high ground, aren't we? I mean, Dems are supposed to be in politics to do good for others, but we know that the Republicans are there to do well for themselves and their private crowd.
    Still, it's hard to tell who's really a Dem anymore. At least some southern Democrats had the honesty and gumption to just go ahead and join the Republican party. Right wing appeasers like Weepin' Joe Lieberman should have such honesty, but alas….

  4. I absolutely agree that Jefferson needs to be shown the door right away.
    I do wonder why it happens to be the one corrupt Democrat who's gotten the unprecedented FBI search of his congressional office and the videotaped bribe from an informant. Is it just coincidence that such procedures weren't used in investigating the multiple Republican scandals? It looks suspiciously like someone thinks it's important to make as big a splash as possible with the one Democrat so that this scandal can counterbalance all those on the other side of the aisle.

  5. Technically speaking, I don't think Dean or the DNC has any power whatsoever to expel anyone claiming to be a Democrat.
    And given the Louisiana electoral system, Jefferson wouldn't really be hampered by being stripped of partisan-ID, as the "primary" in LA is an all-comer first round of a two-round system. There is no Democratic primary to kick Jefferson out of in LA.
    The real question is: how damaged in Jefferson with his constituents?

  6. I must admit I had something of the same reaction as KCinDC had. Next we'll be hearing "Dems do it too" as an excuse to condone Republican misdeeds. As if that were any kind of excuse.
    Somehow finding a stash of 100's wrapped in foil in a freezer seems more sensational and low-class than Republicans' less grubby rake-offs and manipulations. To the great unwashed, I mean, not to us high-minded academic types.

  7. The Politics of Scandal

    Writes Mark Kleiman regarding the Rep. Jefferson situation:
    Of course Jefferson’s corruption can’t hold a candle to either the DeLay/Abramoff connection or the Cunningham/Lewis/God-knows-who-else connection to crooked defense contractors. …

  8. Technically speaking, I don't think Dean or the DNC has any power whatsoever to expel anyone claiming to be a Democrat.
    Doesn't matter. In fact it's better. There are no constitutional procedures to go through. Just do it. Freezer Bribe Cash Boy can whinge afterwards, but what good will it do him? The good it does the party is already there. Take the cash and let the credit go. The point is that corruption is not tolerated, and will be eliminated with all necessary means.
    Think of it as the Democratic war on terror. Just without the "invading random countries" bit. Declare a nationwide war on corruption.

  9. Speaker Hastert comes to the defense of Congresmman Jefferson! More from TPM Cafe and Angrybear.

  10. No need to even formally kick him out. Instead just use this moment to drive home a point to voters.
    The Dem leadership should hold a press conference calling on Jefferson to resign and suggesting that he join the Republican party since he seems to have embraced its values.
    Come on Nancy, you can do it.

  11. Hastert, Boehner & Co. don't seem to be "coming to Jefferson's defense" so much as they are being highly ticked-off at the FBI's somewhat unprecedented "raid" on his Capitol office: there DO seem to be some nontrivial Constitutional (or institutional) issues involved – maybe they have visions of the G-Men busting them next – but, unfortunately, making a "martyr" of Sleazy Billy Jefferson is probably what will be the (unintended) result. Which, I am, sure the House GOP will frantically try to spin to take the heat off their own scandals.

  12. William Jefferson is a problem for Democrats. First, does he have a defense? Second, if Democrats are running against the corrupt Republican machine in 2006, Jefferson is a prime example that Democrats do it also.
    OK. So there is no real difference between the parties, correct?
    That is, unless the Democratic Caucus strip him of his committee assignments and work to have him expelled from the House. This will only work if he is given a chance to prove his innocence. It also needs to be done fairly and with great transparency so as to avoid letting him off just because he is a Black politician. This last is why he has to be given a fair chance to prove his innocence, and it has to be seen among Democrats as being fair (if that is possible.)
    Unless the Democrats act against Jefferson, he is a major damage to the Democratic Party this Fall. But if they do act, then he becomes an example of the difference between the Democrats and the Republican corruption machine.

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