Remember William "Cold Cash" Jefferson? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Clean-Up Crew hope you've forgotten. Jefferson is the former Louisiana congressman caught with gobs of money in his freezer nearly four years ago in an FBI sting. He finally went on trial this week on a multitude of federal bribery and racketeering charges.
Refresher: FBI agents confronted Jefferson with video showing him accepting $100,000 in marked bills from a government informant. Prosecutors say he took the money to bribe a Nigerian official in a business deal. "We got to motivate him real good," Jefferson told the informant, according to a Justice Department transcript. "He's got a lot of people to pay off."
Prosecutors also allege that Jefferson demanded or accepted many other payments to his family-owned firms in exchange for his aid in winning regulatory approval for projects in several West African countries. All but $10,000 of the marked cash was found foil-wrapped in the freezer of Jefferson's Capitol Hill residence. On tape, Jefferson "questioned how his reputation could survive" and wondered aloud to the feds whether the search warrant affidavit could be permanently sealed to keep the information from being made public.
Jefferson's defense team is making an audacious claim that his actions were all "private" and had nothing to do with his official capacities as a lawmaker. Jefferson promises to deliver an "honorable explanation" for deep-freezing the money (arts and crafts project? science experiment?). No word on whether he'll explain why he plotted to leave the tax-paying public in the dark.
Also no word on how his family members could have possibly cashed in on his name, influence and prestige if Jefferson were just another citizen acting "privately." The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Stephanie Grace reported this week that "the tight-knit clan with the damaged name includes several siblings who also benefited from Jefferson's power and prominence -- and who stand accused in a newly revamped federal indictment of forming a criminal enterprise to steer an appalling amount of federal, state and city money into their own pockets.
"Last year, Jefferson's political operative brother Mose and his assessor sister Betty, along with Betty's daughter, were charged with systematically bilking government-funded social service programs. Another sister is cooperating with the feds."
So, where is the congressional clean-up crew?