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Bill Jefferson

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by Lindy Boggs
Succeeded by Joseph Cao

Born March 14, 1947 (1947-03-14) (age 62)
Lake Providence, Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Andrea Jefferson
Residence New Orleans, Louisiana
Alma mater Southern University, Harvard Law School, Georgetown University Law Center
Occupation Attorney
Religion Baptist

William Jennings "Bill" Jefferson (born March 14, 1947) is a former American politician, and a published author[1] from the U.S. state of Louisiana. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for nine terms from 1991 to 2009 as a member of the Democratic Party. He represented Louisiana's 2nd congressional district, which includes much of the greater New Orleans area. He was Louisiana's first black congressman since the end of Reconstruction.[2]

Suspecting him of bribery, the FBI raided his Congressional offices in May 2006, but he was re-elected later that year. On June 4, 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on sixteen charges related to corruption.[3] Jefferson was defeated by Republican Joseph Cao on December 6, 2008,[4] being the most senior Democrat to lose re-election that year.[5] In 2009 he was tried in Virginia on corruption charges.[6] On August 5, 2009, he was found guilty of 11 of the 16 corruption counts.[7] Jefferson's lawyers have promised to appeal, a gesture which New Orleans former U.S. attorney Harry Rosenberg told the Times-Picayune may work in Jefferson's favor because the jury failed to convict him on all 16 of the indictment counts.[8] Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years on November 13, 2009, the longest sentence ever handed down to a congressman for bribery.[9]


Early life and family

Jefferson was born in Lake Providence, a small village in East Carroll Parish in far northeastern Louisiana, where he and his eight brothers and sisters worked alongside their father – a farmer and a heavy-equipment operator for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Jeffersons were among the few African-American families in the area who actually owned their land (as opposed to sharecropping), which gave them a certain degree of respectability in the community. Nonetheless, he grew up in an environment of strong poverty.[10]

Although neither of his parents had graduated from high school, Jefferson graduated from G. W. Griffin High School in Lake Providence, Louisiana, in 1965.[11] In 1969 he received a bachelor's degree from Southern University, where he had participated in Army ROTC; in 1969 he led a protest against substandard campus facilities and negotiated a resolution of the complaint with then-Governor John McKeithen. On graduation from Southern University he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army and served in a reserve capacity until 1975.[12] He earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1972 and a LLM in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center in 1996. In 1972 and 1973 Jefferson began the practice of law while initially serving as a clerk for Judge Alvin B. Rubin of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. From 1973 to 1975, he was a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Louisiana.

Jefferson is married to Andrea Jefferson. Together they have five daughters: Jamila Jefferson-Jones, Jalila Jefferson-Bullock (a former Louisiana State Representative), Jelani Jefferson Exum (a professor of law at the University of Kansas), Nailah Jefferson (a documentary filmmaker), and Akilah Jefferson.

Jamila, Jalila, and Jelani are all graduates of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Nailah is a graduate of Boston University and Emerson College. Akilah is a graduate of Brown University and now a student at Tulane University School of Medicine.

On June 9, 2009, prosecutors in William Jefferson's corruption trial released a 152-page list of trial exhibits including a list of Jefferson's daughters and the elite colleges they attended, asserting that his daughters and the colleges they attended were the beneficiaries of bribes paid to ANJ Group in exchange for Jefferson's assistance in securing contracts for American companies in western Africa.[13]

Jefferson is the brother of New Orleans assessor Betty Jefferson, a Democratic field operative; convicted felon Mose Jefferson;[14] and of Archie Jefferson and Brenda Jefferson Foster. He is the uncle of Angela Coleman.

In 2009, Betty, Mose, Angela Coleman, and Mose's longtime compainion, former New Orleans City Councilwoman Renée Gill Pratt, were under indictment for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. On June 5, 2009, all the defendants pleaded not guilty. Brenda Jefferson Foster is serving as a witness in the government's case against them.[15] Mose Jefferson is also facing a separate trial for bribing Orleans Parish School Board president Ellenese Brooks-Simms.[16] Archie Jefferson is a convicted felon.[17] On July 28, 2009,United States federal judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle delayed the start of the racketeering trial to January 25, 2010. The bribery trial of Mose Jefferson alone was still set to begin on August 10, 2009.[18]

Political Career in New Orleans

Jefferson moved to New Orleans in 1976 and was elected to the Louisiana Senate in 1979, where he served until 1990. He twice unsuccessfully ran for New Orleans mayor, first challenging Dutch Morial in the election of 1982, and then being defeated by Sidney Barthelemy in the mayoral runoff of 1986.[19] During the 1982 mayoral race, Morial attacked Jefferson by calling him "Dollar Bill" – a nickname which has stuck to this day. Still, Jefferson was considered a rising star in Louisiana politics, with some even suggesting he would be his state's second African-American governor.[10]

In 1990, midway through his third term in the state senate, Jefferson ran in the jungle primary for Louisiana's 2nd congressional district seat after 10-term incumbent Lindy Boggs announced her retirement. He finished first in the seven-candidate field with 24 percent of the vote. In the runoff, he defeated Marc Morial, the son of Dutch Morial, with 52 percent of the vote. He was reelected seven times.

In the House, Jefferson joined the Congressional Black Caucus.[20]

Jefferson ran for governor in the 1999 jungle primary, and was the de facto "official" Democratic candidate. However, he lost badly to incumbent Republican Mike Foster, tallying only 29.5 percent of the vote and carrying only New Orleans (which is coextensive with Orleans Parish).

Local influence

Jefferson and his family controlled one of the most sophisticated and effective get-out-the-vote organizations in South Louisiana – the Progressive Democrats – the foil to which is the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), founded by Jefferson nemeses Ken Carter and Jim Singleton. In 2002, the Progressive Democrats' support helped elect Jefferson's protégée Renée Gill Pratt as a Councilmember. Jefferson's daughter Jalila was defeated by Rosalind Peychaud in a special election for Gill Pratt's District 91 seat in the Louisiana State House, but subsequently defeated Peychaud in the next regular election. Jefferson's Progressive Democrats organization also contributed to the election of Jefferson's sister Betty, as a municipal assessor, in 1998, 2002 and 2006. New Orleans politics substantially changed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with many former voters no longer in the city. Laura Maggi has described Mose Jefferson as "the man responsible for running the Progressive Democrats street operation" in New Orleans.[21]

A few days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Jefferson used a National Guard detachment to recover personal effects and belongings from his home.[22] After the truck in which he and the detachment traveled became stuck, the Guard helicopter aided Jefferson's party while rescue operations where still ongoing.

Voting Record

Corruption investigation

The investigation began in mid-2005, after an investor alleged $400,000 in bribes were paid through a company maintained in the name of Jefferson's spouse and children. The money came from a tech company named iGate, Inc., of Louisville, Kentucky, and in return, it is alleged, Jefferson would help iGate's business. Jefferson was to persuade the U.S. Army to test iGate's broadband two-way technology and other iGate products; use his efforts to influence high-ranking officials in Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon; and meet with personnel of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, in order to facilitate potential financing for iGate business deals in those countries.[23]

On 30 July 2005, Jefferson was videotaped by the FBI receiving $100,000 worth of $100 bills in a leather briefcase at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington, Virginia.[24] Jefferson told an investor, Lori Mody, who was wearing a wire, that he would need to give Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar $500,000 "as a motivating factor" to make sure they obtained contracts for iGate and Mody's company in Nigeria.[25]

New Orleans Mardi Gras float satirizing "Dollar" Bill Jefferson à la Millionaire

A few days later, on 3 August 2005, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and, as noted in an 83-page affidavit filed to support a subsequent raid on his Congressional office, "found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers." Serial numbers found on the currency in the freezer matched serial numbers of funds given by the FBI to their informant.

Late on the night of May 20, 2006, FBI agents executed a search warrant[26] at Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building. This is "believed to be the first-ever FBI raid on a Congressional office,"[27] raising concerns that it could "set a dangerous precedent that could be used by future administrations to intimidate or harass a supposedly coequal branch of the government." The raid led to an irony that one of Democrat Jefferson's staunchest defenders in the turf battle between the FBI and Congress became Dennis Hastert, who was Speaker of the House and a Republican.[28]

The affidavit used to support these raids alleged:

  • The FBI videotaped Jefferson receiving a stock certificate from Mody for a company set up in Nigeria to promote iGate's technology. Jefferson predicted the deal would generate $200 million annually after five years.
  • Jefferson told Mody that he wanted a similar financial stake in the business in Ghana.
  • Jefferson sought $10 million in financing from Mody to take over iGate and install "confidants" on the new board. In two payments, Mody wired $89,225 to the ANJ Group LLC, a company controlled by Jefferson's family.
  • Jefferson lent $4,800 of the money Mody gave him to an unnamed congressional aide. Another $4,900 was given back to the FBI by one of Jefferson's attorneys.
  • The FBI claims it has uncovered "at least seven other schemes in which Jefferson sought things of value in return for his official acts."

Former aides' guilty pleas

In January 2006, Brett M. Pfeffer, a former aide to Jefferson, implicated him in a corruption scheme involving an Internet company being set up in Nigeria. Pfeffer was president of an investment company in McLean, Virginia. In return for political support for the deal, Jefferson had legal work directed toward the Jefferson family's operations. It was also said that a daughter of Jefferson was put on retainer of the Virginia investment company to the tune of $5,000 a month. Jefferson is said to have arranged for his family a 5-percent to 7-percent ownership stake in the Nigerian internet company. On January 11, 2006, in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Pfeffer pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting bribery of a public official.[29] On May 26, he was sentenced to eight years.[30]

On May 3, 2006, during a plea hearing in U.S. District Court, Vernon Jackson, 53, CEO of Louisville, Kentucky-based iGate Inc., pled guilty to bribery of a public official and conspiracy to bribe a public official. According to the Associated Press, "court documents make clear that Congressman William Jefferson (Democrat-Louisiana) is the accused congressman, without naming him." Jackson's plea bargain requires his cooperation in the ongoing investigation against the congressman he admits bribing. The total amount of the bribes is between $400,000 and $1 million, according to court documents of the Jackson proceeding.[31] On September 8, Jackson was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in jail.[32]

Congressional office raid

The raid of Jefferson's office set off a series of political events: Jefferson immediately challenged the action in federal court. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued "a rare joint statement demanding that the FBI return the documents and saying that Jefferson then should cooperate more fully with the investigation."[33] "Many Republicans and Democrats contend that the unprecedented raid on a congressional office was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government that are meant to shelter lawmakers from administrative intimidation."[34] Tensions escalated to the point where – according to AP – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, his deputy Paul McNulty, and possibly FBI Director Robert Mueller "were said to be ready to quit if the Justice Department was asked to return the Jefferson documents ... [while the] House was threatening to go after the Justice Department's budget."[35]

On May 25, President Bush stepped in, taking the extraordinary step of "directing the Department of Justice to seal all the materials recovered from Congressman Jefferson's office for the next 45 days and not to allow access to anyone involved in the investigation."[36] Representative James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, began to hold hearings – called "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?" – on the "profoundly disturbing" questions that Sensenbrenner said the Justice Department's actions raised.

The FBI, in answering Jefferson's complaint of the raid, attached an FBI agent's affidavit claiming that the raid was necessary because, while the FBI was searching Jefferson's home in August, Jefferson tried to "surreptitiously remove" documents.[37]

An ABC News poll released 1 June 2006 found 86% of Americans supported the FBI's right to search congressional offices when they obtain a warrant.[38]

On July 10, 2006, Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that the FBI raid on Jefferson's office was legal,[39] rejecting the claim of both Jefferson and the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives that the search violated the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause, separation of powers principle, and the Fourth Amendment. Chief Judge Hogan, in a 28-page ruling, acknowledged that the "facts and questions of law presented here are indeed unprecedented," but wrote that it is "well-established" that a Congressman is "generally bound to the operation of the criminal laws as are ordinary persons," and that the Speech or Debate Clause does not "make Members of Congress super-citizens, immune from criminal responsibility.'"[40] Hogan, in his conclusion, wrote:

"The existing broad protections of the Speech or Debate Clause – absolute immunity from prosecution or suit for legislative acts and freedom from being 'questioned' about those acts (including privilege from the testimonial act of producing documents in response to a subpoena) – satisfy the fundamental purpose of the Clause to protect the independence of the legislature. The Court declines to extend those protections further, holding that the Speech or Debate Clause does not shield Members of Congress from the execution of valid search warrants. Congressman Jefferson's interpretation of the Speech or Debate privilege would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime. Such a result is not supported by the Constitution or judicial precedent and will not be adopted here. See Williamson v. United States, 28 S. Ct. at 167 ('[T]he laws of this country allow no place or employment as a sanctuary for crime.') (quotation omitted).[41]

Later, however, in that same month, a three-judge appellate panel unanimously overruled Hogan's decision and affirmed that the Department of Justice could not review Jefferson's files until Jefferson had seen what files were taken and which of those pertained to his work as a legislator. The appellate court directed that Hogan, the judge who originally authorized the controversial search and seizure, should ascertain whether Jefferson's claims of legislative privilege extended to specific seized files that the lawmaker might cite.[42] On March 31, 2008, the United States Supreme Court denied further review.[43]

Removal of committee membership

On May 24, 2006, after months of refusing to deal with the Jefferson scandal amid rising public outrage, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi publicly requested Jefferson's immediate resignation from the House Ways and Means Committee, but he declined to step down.[44] Although Mel Watt, then chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, declared the strong support of the caucus for Jefferson, it has since been reported that two prominent members of the caucus – John Lewis (D-GA) and Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) – played major roles in the campaign to force Jefferson to step down.[45]

On June 15, 2006, House Democrats voted to strip Jefferson of his committee assignment while the federal bribery investigation continued. The intra-party vote passed 99 to 58. Some have reported that the vote was passed as a result of Democrats who were determined to make an election-year point about ethics. The full House, the only group with the power actually to remove Jefferson, then stripped him of his seat on the committee on June 16 in a voice vote without debate. Jefferson had offered to step aside temporarily if the Democratic caucus established a rule concerning cases like his and if his seat went to Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA). This offer was rejected by House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi.[46]

2006 election

In the ensuing 2006 election cycle for Louisiana's 2nd congressional district, eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one Libertarian challengers stood for election against Jefferson.[47]

A significant number of the district’s former voters have settled in new places across the United States as a result of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

None of the candidates obtained more than 50% of the vote on the first ballot (November 7, 2006), forcing a runoff. The two candidates who survived the first ballot were both African-American Democrats: Jefferson got 30% of the vote, and State Representative Karen Carter, who enjoyed support from the Louisiana Democratic Party’s establishment, picked up nearly all endorsements from local politicians and the local press and gathered 22% of the vote.[48] Carter was Jefferson's first credible challenger since his initial run for Congress.

Political commentators predicted an easy victory for Carter on the second ballot (to be held on December 9, 2006).[49] In the last week of campaign, however, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, a law and order Democrat, urged voters not to vote for Carter. In response to Carter's criticism of Gretna police officers and Jefferson Parish deputies, who had blocked the Crescent City Connection and prevented evacuees from fleeing New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, Lee mailed out 25,000 fliers and made public statements attacking Carter. With this background the situation was particularly emotional and visceral as Orleans Parish is predominantly black and Jefferson Parish predominantly white (although not the part of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana's 2nd congressional district).[50]

Voter turnout dwindled from 24.15% to 16.25%. While residents of the city of New Orleans gave Jefferson a slight majority over Carter, (51% to 49%); the Jefferson Parish share of the district voted for Jefferson by a staggering 71% to 29%, clearly swinging the election in his favor.

Following Jefferson's reelection, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi announced that Jefferson would not regain his seat on the Ways and Means Committee as long as he is not "cleared of wrongdoing in an ongoing federal corruption probe".[51]

Indictment, Trial, Conviction and Sentencing

Photo of cash found in Jefferson's freezer in the August 2005 raid was shown to jurors on 8 July 2009

On June 4, 2007 Jefferson was indicted on 16 charges of corruption by a federal grand jury. On June 8, 2007, Jefferson pled not guilty to the charges. After the hearing, Jefferson said, "I am absolutely innocent of the charges that have been leveled against me. I'm going to fight my heart out to clear my name." He further explained: "The $90,000 was the FBI's money. The FBI gave it to me as part of its plan — part of their plan — that I would give it to the Nigerian vice president, but I did not do that. When all the facts are understood, I trust that I will be vindicated."[52] The FBI has denied working with Jefferson.

Jefferson appealed the indictment, on 14 of the 16 counts, by claiming "legislative immunity provided by the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution"; in November 2008, however, Judge Robert King rejected the appeal and upheld the indictment on all 16 counts.[53][54] Jefferson's 4th Circuit Court of Appeals trial had originally been set to begin on December 2, 2008,[55] but was postponed until January 15. 2009, (after the December 6, 2008, general election in Louisiana's 2nd congressional district). Jefferson's attorneys sought "issuance of a mandate" in petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to oblige postponement of Jefferson's trial by lower courts. Quoted by Bruce Alpert of the Times-Picayune Washington Bureau, Jefferson's lawyers based their petition for postponement in part on an argument that "Once a trial takes place, the injury caused by exposure to trial cannot be undone, even if he [Jefferson] is acquitted or a conviction is subsequently reversed" (the "injury" being in the context of Jefferson's December 6, 2008, election loss to Anh "Joseph" Cao). As of December 24, 2008, a status hearing continued to be scheduled by U.S. District Court Judge T. S. Ellis III, sitting in Alexandria, Virginia, for January 15, 2009, when the schedule or other specific future of the case would be promulgated. The federal prosecutors disputed the request for postponement as merely a stalling maneuver which would facilitate "further prejudice" against "not a close case" according to prosecutor Mark Daniel Lytle.[56] The Times-Picayune consistently alleged and reported efforts by Jefferson's attorneys to delay the trial or limit the prosecution.[57] The trial continued to be set for beginning on May 26, 2009.[58] On May 8, however, Federal Judge T. S. Ellis III – on request from Jefferson's attorney Robert P. Trout "for two to three additional weeks" – delayed the trial opening date by one week, to June 2.[59]

On May 27, after a contentious hearing with defense attorney Robert Trout and prosecutor Mark Lytle, Judge T. S. Ellis III delayed the trial opening until June 9.[60] About the same time, developments surrounding Gill Pratt's decision to go on an unpaid leave of absence from her administrative job at Southern University at New Orleans prompted columnist Stephanie Grace to surmise that Jefferson was losing his clout at the New Orleans institution, where his wife Andrea Green Jefferson is also an administrator.[61] On June 7, two days before the trial opening, the Times-Picayune published a lengthy analysis of the allegations and supposed participants.[62]

In the weeks before the trial Jefferson's lawyers, as described by the Times-Picayune, had concentrated on jury selection.[63] The challenge before them was not reduced by a couple of events in the 2 weeks before the trial date. First, Angela Coleman (daughter of Betty Jefferson and thus the former congressman's niece), told a federal court that she could not afford to continue hiring lawyer John Fuller; the court-assigned public defender Virginia Schlueter to the case, which concerns Coleman's alleged involvement in misappropriation (of more than $600,000 in state and federal grant funding) by Betty Jefferson, Mose Jefferson, and Renée Gill Pratt.[64] Second, a transcript of tapes of a 2005 dinner conversation between William J. Jefferson and Virginia businesswoman and prosecution witness Lori Mody obtained by the Times-Picayune turned out to be so clear as to include observations of their dessert preferences and even "stomach grumbling" sounds.[65] For various reasons the prosecution decided not to call Mody to testify in person but merely to rely on the taped conversations[66]—a decision perceived by many as weakening the prosecution's case.[67]

Jury selection began June 9, 2009.[6] Extent and accuracy of prior knowledge of the case were major concerns in selection of jurors. By June 14, 2009, twelve jurors (eight women, four men) had been selected from a pool of more than a hundred potential jurors.[68]

On June 24, 2009, iGate CEO Vernon Jackson, testifying in the court, alleged that in 2002 he felt coerced into continuing to be involved in the Nigerian deal with William J. Jefferson because an attempt by then-chancellor Joseph Bouie to remove Jefferson's wife, Andrea Jefferson, as vice chancellor for academic affairs at SUNO for reasons involving nepotism instead resulted in the removal of Bouie.[69]

On July 7, 2009, a federal jury was shown a video of Jefferson accepting a suitcase filled with $100,000 in cash outside a northern Virginia hotel. In the video, it was reported that Jefferson seemed wary of accepting the money in public. The FBI recorded the exchange from four different angles, and all were shown to the jury.[70]

On August 5, 2009, Jefferson was convicted on 11 of the 16 corruption charges against him.[71] On August 6, 2009, Jefferson went back to court for forfeiture proceedings. His defense argued that much of the money the government wished to seize was from legitimate business enterprise and his "passion for Africa." Jefferson and family was held liable to forfeit more than $470,000 of this bribe money paid to sham companies under the family's control. The jury also found ANJ Group could be required to surrender millions of shares of stock in a Kentucky technology company and a Nigerian telecommunications venture. The $470,000 included $21,353 which the former congressman's brother, Mose, received in bribe payments and which was ultimately used to help pay off Andrea Jefferson's credit-card debt, and helped pay for Jelani Jefferson's Harvard Law School tuition.[72]

On August 30, 2009, the Times-Picayune reported that William J. Jefferson and his attorneys had requested that he be retried.[73]

On September 21, 2009, Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III denied Jefferson's request for a new trial.[74]

On November 13, 2009, Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years for bribery, the longest sentence ever handed down to a congressman for bribery.[9]

2008 election

In 2008, Jefferson sought re-election. Seven Democrats challenged him for the seat in the Democratic primary.[75]

In the October 4, 2008 Democratic primary, opposition to Jefferson was split among six contenders. Some of the challengers made strong showings in their base neighborhoods but failed to garner much support in other parts of the district. Jefferson ran second, third, or even fourth in many precincts, but his 25 percent total was enough to give him a plurality and to send him into the runoff primary, where he faced Helena Moreno, a former TV newscaster, on November 4. Aided by overwhelming support from African-American voters on the same date as the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama drew them to the polls in unprecedented numbers, Jefferson won the Democratic nomination in the congressional party primary which barred the district's 41 thousand Republicans and many of its 84 thousand other voters not registered as Democrats.[76][77] Jefferson won the November 4 Democratic runoff.[78]

The general election round occurred on December 6, 2008. Jefferson faced Republican candidate Anh "Joseph" Cao, Green Party candidate Malik Rahim, and Libertarian Party candidate Gregory Kahn. An earlier candidate, independent Jerry Jacobs, withdrew.[79]

Jefferson was defeated in the general election on December 6, 2008 in a major upset by Republican nominee Cao,[4] who had endorsements from several prominent Democrats including Moreno and City Councilwomen Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson and Stacy Head. Mayor Nagin endorsed Jefferson. Cao won by three percentage points. Jefferson thus became only the third Democratic incumbent since the end of Reconstruction to lose to a Republican at the federal level in Louisiana.

Jefferson's loss evoked a sensation because of the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of the district; with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+28, it is the third-most Democratic district in the South. Democrats usually win local and state races in landslides, and Barack Obama carried the district with 72 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Jefferson became only the third African-American U.S. Representative to be defeated in a general election.[80]

Future election prospects

According to Stephanie Grace, in a Times-Picayune column on March 19, 2009, Jefferson's supporters have been attempting to rehabilitate Jefferson by sending thousands of e-mails attacking Cao, U.S. Senator David Vitter, radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, and other Republicans but that still

Jefferson's quest for acquittal is the challenge of a lifetime. And no matter how many e-mails his remaining "friends" send out, vindication in the eyes of the voters will be even tougher.[81]

On April 12, 2009, Times-Picayune columnist James Gill cited the emergence of a group styling itself "Friends of Congressman William J. Jefferson" and opined that the group should change its name to "Friends of ex-Congressman William J. Jefferson"; Gill, reporting Jefferson's argument that 14 of the 16 felony counts against him should be thrown out as not statutorily definable as bribery, concluded that

Beating 14 counts would be a great coup for any defendant, but the joy must be somewhat diminished for one who is facing 16.[82]

Gill had taken note that on May 14, 2009 the "Friends" planned to stage a "Celebration of Service" for Jefferson, with Jefferson's trial to begin 2 weeks later.[83] "Spirited Appreciation Celebration with Acknowledgment, Music, Dance and Fellowship" was the "Friends" official description of the "Celebration of Service" program, which went on as scheduled.[84] Within days after the "Celebration of Service" Gill published an allegation that long-time associates of Jefferson had orchestrated the New Orleans e-mail controversy as a means to embarrass and weaken Democrat Stacy Head, who had in 2006 defeated Jefferson protégée Renée Gill Pratt and in 2008 had endorsed Republican Joseph Cao's successful attempt to unseat Jefferson.[85]

In 2000, Jefferson was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[86]

In August 2009, after his conviction, William J. Jefferson and his wife, Andrea Jefferson applied for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The Times-Picayune estimated that the claimed debts totaled between $1 million and $10 million.[87] Furthermore, in October 2009 the Louisiana Supreme Court placed Jefferson (a licensed attorney) on interim suspension from the practice of law.[88]

Electoral history

Mayor of New Orleans, 1982

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, February 6, 1982

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Ernest Morial Democratic 75,929 (47%) Runoff
Ron Faucheux Democratic 73,441 (45%) Runoff
Bill Jefferson Democratic 11,327 (7%) Defeated
Others n.a. 1,164 (1%) Defeated

Second Ballot, March 20, 1982

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Ernest Morial Democratic 100,703 (53%) Elected
Ron Faucheux Democratic 88,583 (47%) Defeated

Mayor of New Orleans, 1986

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, February 1, 1986

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 62,333 (39%) Runoff
Sidney Barthelemy Democratic 53,961 (33%) Runoff
Sam LeBlanc Democratic 40,963 (25%) Defeated
Others n.a. 4,372 (3%) Defeated

Second Ballot, March 1, 1986

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Sidney Barthelemy Democratic 93,050 (58%) Elected
Bill Jefferson Democratic 67,680 (42%) Defeated

State Senator, 1987

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 24, 1987

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic No Opponents Elected

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1990

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 6, 1990

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 32,237 (24%) Runoff
Marc Morial Democratic 29,366 (22%) Runoff
Jon Johnson Democratic 25,468 (19%) Defeated
Woody Koppel Democratic 24,175 (18%) Defeated
Others n.a. 20,800 (17%) Defeated

Second Ballot, November 6, 1990

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 55,239 (52%) Elected
Marc Morial Democratic 50,232 (48%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1992

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 3, 1992

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 67,030 (73%) Elected
Wilma Knox Irvin Democratic 14,121 (15%) Defeated
Roger Johnson Independent 10,090 (11%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1994

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 1, 1994

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 60,906 (78%) Elected
Bob Namer Republican 15,113 (19%) Defeated
Others n.a. 5,549 (3%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1996

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, September 21, 1996

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic No Opponents Elected

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 1998

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, November 3, 1998

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 102,247 (78%) Elected
David Reed Democratic 10,803 (9%) Defeated
Don-Terry Veal Democratic 5,899 (5%) Defeated

Governor of Louisiana, 1999

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, October 23, 1999

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Mike Foster Republican 805,203 (62%) Elected
Bill Jefferson Democratic 382,445 (30%) Defeated
Others n.a. 107,557 (8%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2000

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, November 7, 2000

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic No Opponents Elected

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2002

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, November 5, 2002

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 90,310 (64%) Elected
Irma Muse Dixon Democratic 28,480 (20%) Defeated
Silky Sullivan Republican 15,440 (11%) Defeated
Others n.a. 7,926 (5%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2004

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, November 2, 2004

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 173,510 (79%) Elected
Art Schwertz Republican 46,097 (21%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2006

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, November 7, 2006

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 27,706 (30%) Runoff
Karen Carter Democratic 19,972 (22%) Runoff
Derrick Shepherd Democratic 16,621 (18%) Defeated
Joe Lavigne Republican 12,405 (13%) Defeated
Troy Carter Democratic 11,052 (12%) Defeated
Others n.a. 4,661 (5%) Defeated

Second Ballot, December 9, 2006

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Bill Jefferson Democratic 35,153 (57%) Elected
Karen Carter Democratic 27,011 (43%) Defeated

U. S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District, 2008

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Joseph Cao Republican 33,122 (49.55%) Elected
Bill Jefferson Democratic 31,296 (46.82%) Defeated
Others n.a. 2,428 (3.63%) Defeated


  1. ^ "Dying Is the Easy Part" (retrieved August 06, 2009).
  2. ^ Murray, Shailagh and Lengel, Allan (2006-02-16). "The Legal Woes Of Rep. Jefferson". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  3. ^ Johnston, David and Zeleny, Jeff (2007-06-05). "Congressman Sought Bribes, Indictment Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-05.  
  4. ^ a b "Louisiana congressman loses re-election bid". CNN. 2006- 12-07. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  5. ^ See, Jefferson article in NNDB Beta, which also contains a list of his family members. See also New York Times articles on Jefferson.
  6. ^ a b "Trial of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson begins today in Virginia" in Times-Picayune, June 9, 2009
  7. ^ "William Jefferson verdict: Guilty on 11 of 16 counts" in Times-Picayune, August 5, 2009
  8. ^ Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, "William Jefferson guilty verdict ends long political career" in Times-Picayune, August 06, 2009 (retrieved August 06, 2009).
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b Berry, Jason. Louisiana Purchase. Washington Monthly, April 2008.
  11. ^ Jefferson article on NNDB Beta, which also cites his membership in the Greater New Orleans Chapter of the Urban League and his support of the United Negro College Fund.
  12. ^ Navy League spreadsheet of military veterans in Congress.
  13. ^ "Exhibits in Jefferson trial reveal payments to daughters' colleges" in Times-Picayune, June 10, 2009
  14. ^ On August 21, 2009 Mose Jefferson was convicted on four felony counts (Mose Jefferson guilty of 4 of 7 bribery charges).
  15. ^ Michelle Krupa, "Ex-N.O. official pleads innocent" in Times-Picayune, June 06, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A11.
  16. ^ Gordon Russell, "Mose Jefferson, William's brother, was the first to taste victory in politics ... behind the scenes" in Times-Picayune, May 31, 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A12.
  17. ^ Michelle Krupa, "Former N.O. official pleads innocent" in Times-Picayune, June 6, 2009.
  18. ^ "Trial delayed for Gill Pratt, Jefferson kin" in Times-Picayune, July 29, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B3.
  19. ^ Grady, Bill. "Mayor's runoff: one goal, two contenders." The New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 23, 1986.
  20. ^ "Jefferson, William Jennings - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  21. ^ Laura Maggi "Jefferson family tree is shaken: Mighty political organization falls to legal assault portraying corruption" in Times-Picayune, August 09, 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A18 (quotation appears on p. A18). Most of Maggi's article concerns the imputed connections between the trial of William J. Jefferson and other members of the family as well as Renée Gill Pratt.
  22. ^ Tapper, Jake (2005-09-13). "Amid Katrina Chaos, Congressman Used National Guard to Visit Home". ABC News. Retrieved 2006-02-07.  
  23. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation (2006-05-03). FBI. Gov "Businessman Pleads Guilty to Paying Bribes to U.S. Congressman". Press release. FBI. Gov. Retrieved 2007-02-06.  
  24. ^ Barakat, Matthew (2006-05-21). "Filing: Tape Shows Lawmaker Taking Money". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  25. ^ Lengel, Allan (2006-05-21). "FBI Says Jefferson Was Filmed Taking Cash". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  26. ^ Affidavit and search warrant (1.25MB PDF)
  27. ^ Bresnahan, John (2006-05-21). "FBI Raid Angers Some on Hill; Feds Probe Additional Jefferson ‘Schemes’". RollCall. Retrieved 2007-02-06.  
  28. ^ Hulse, Carl (2006-05-24). "F.B.I. Raid Divides G.O.P. Lawmakers and White House". New York Times. p. A01. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  29. ^ Ana Radelat, Gannett News Service, "Former congressional aide pleads guilty to bribery", 1/11/2006. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  30. ^ "Former Congressional Legislative Assistant Brett M. Pfeffer ORMER Sentenced in Bribery Scheme" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. 2008-05-26. Retrieved 2008-12-7.  
  31. ^ FBI, "Businessman Pleads Guilty to Paying Bribes to U.S. Congressman", May 3, 2006. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  32. ^ "Louisville Businessman Sentenced to 87 Months in Prison for Bribing Congressman" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2008-12-7.  
  33. ^ "Bush orders documents seized in Capitol Hill search sealed", CNN
  34. ^ Shailagh Murray and Allan Lengel, Washington Post, May 25, 2006
  35. ^ Reichman, Deb (May 29, 2006). "Threats Led Bush to Intervene in FBI Fight". AP.  
  36. ^ "Text of Bush's order to seal materials"
  37. ^ "Justice Prosecutor's Response to Jefferson Request". 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-31.  
  38. ^ "Poll: Americans Support Searches; Public Sides With FBI in Congress Search Issue". 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-05.  
  39. ^ Judge rules FBI raid on Hill office legal — Jerry Seper and Christina Bellantoni, Washington Times, July 11, 2006
  40. ^ "In Re: Search of the Rayburn House Office Building Room Number 2113 Washington, D.C. 20515" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-10.  , citing United States v. Brewster, 408 U.S. 501, 516.
  41. ^ "In Re: Search of the Rayburn House OFfice Building Room Number 2113 Washington, D.C. 20515" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-10.  
  42. ^ Shenon, Philip (2006-07-29). "Lawmaker Wins Delay On Review Of Evidence". New York Times. p. A10. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  43. ^ Mears, Bill (2008-03-31). "Supreme Court rejects appeal in seizure of lawmaker's papers". CNN. Retrieved 2008-03-31.  
  44. ^ Cooper, Patrick (2008-05-26). "Rep. Jefferson declines Pelosi request to leave panel". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  45. ^ Edney, Hazel Trice (2006-06-13). "Some CBC Members Secretly Trying to Oust Jefferson from Committee Post". Milwaukee Courier. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  
  46. ^ MSNBC, "House lawmakers strip Jefferson of panel seat", June 16, 2006. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  47. ^ Phillips, Lauren (August 9, 2006). "Bribery Claims Fail to Keep Jefferson from Filing in La. 2".  
  48. ^ "Democratic Party in La. Backs Rival Of Jefferson". Associated Press. October 15, 2006.  
  49. ^ "Jefferson's Dilemma". Gambit Weekly. November 21, 2006.  
  50. ^ "Harry Lee: Say No to Karen Carter". WWL-TV New Orleans. December 4, 2006.  
  51. ^ "Jefferson still off crucial committee". Times-Picayune. December 13, 2006.  
  52. ^ "La. congressman pleads not guilty to bribery". Boston Globe. June 9, 2007.  
  53. ^ "Court Opinion, U.S. v. Jefferson, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit" (PDF). 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  54. ^ Slater, Dan (2008-11-12). "Frozen Out? Court Rejects Appeal by Rep. William Jefferson". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  55. ^ "Trial, re-election bid face Rep. Jefferson". United Press International. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  56. ^ Bruce Alpert, "Prosecutors Seek to Thwart Delay in Jefferson's Trial: His Lawyers Appealing to U.S. Supreme Court" in the Times-Picayune, December 25, 2008 (Metro Edition), p. 1A, 8A. retrieved December 25, 2008.
  57. ^ Bruce Alpert, Jefferson attempts to limit prosecution, Times-Picayune, April 14, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. A2.
  58. ^ Bruce Alpert, William Jefferson's bribery trial now scheduled for May 26, Times-Picayune, January 15, 2009 (accessed May 02, 2009).
  59. ^ Bruce Alpert, Judge delays Jefferson trial by one week, Times-Picayune, May 09, 2009, p. A4. Trout made the request after chief prosecutor Lytle presented 12,000 pages of material supporting the prosecution (Trout claimed that his "legal team needed the time to review the documents and subpoena new witnesses based on the new information"). Lytle objected, citing the repeated earlier delays in the trial date. Ellis denied a number of other requests by Trout. Ellis also cautioned that he would offer no further delays beyond 2 June 2009.
  60. ^ Bruce Alpert, "Jefferson trial put off until June 9" in Times-Picayune, May 28, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A10.
  61. ^ Stephanie Grace, "Jefferson grip on SUNO isn't what it once was" in Times-Picayune, June 2, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B5.
  62. ^ Bruce Alpert, [ "Jefferson case reaches courtroom: Corruption trial full of firsts—Fireworks set to unfold Tuesday"] in Times-Picayune, June 07, 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A14-A15.
  63. ^ Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, "Jefferson's attorneys want to pick jurors' brains" by Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, Times-Picayune (New Orleans), April 19, 2009, p. A17 (for web version, go to "On the Hill" and scroll down).
  64. ^ "Jefferson's niece gets a new lawyer" in Times-Picayune, May 24, 2009, Metro Edition, p. B2. The online version, Former congressman's niece needs new lawyer, adds a statement that Brenda Jefferson (another relative) previously answered 'guilty' to assisting in concealment of that fraud.
  65. ^ Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, "Jurors will be all ears" in Times-Picayune, May 24, 2009, Metro Edition, p. A7.
  66. ^ Stephanie Grace, "Jefferson accuser will be heard, not seen" in Times-Picayune, June 14, 2009, Metro Edition, p. B5.
  67. ^ Bruce Alpert, "Jefferson case may not be airtight: Experts see weak spots in feds' arguments" in Times-Picayune, June 15, 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A3. Stephanie Grace, "Absence raises questions" in Times-Picayune, July 05, 2009, Metro Edition, p. B5.
  68. ^ Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, "Cold cash common knowledge" in Times-Picayune, June 14, 2009, Metro Edition, p. A8.
  69. ^ Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, iGate exec says he feared retribution "iGate exec says he feared retribution" in Times-Picayune, June 24, 2009, Metro Edition, pp. A1, A6. According to the article, members of the Board of Supervisors of the Southern University System nonetheless attributed Bouie's removal to sexual harassment and poor financial oversight.
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ "William Jefferson should forfeit $470,000 after guilty verdict, jury says" in Times-Picayune.
  73. ^ Bruce Alpert & Jonathan Tilove, "William Jefferson seeks new trial" in Times-Picayune, August 30, 2009, Metro Edition, p. A6. In the same issue a letter to the editor excoriated the entire Jefferson family (Shirley Williams, "The lessons of corruption" in Times-Picayune, August 30, 2009, Metro Edition, p. B4.
  74. ^
  75. ^ Mike Conti, "Five Dems sign up to challenge Jefferson on first qualifying day" on WWL Radio 870 AM New Orleans, July 09, 2008. Because of Hurricane Gustav the dates of the first and second party primaries and the general election were all moved to later than their customary statutory dates. The same was true of the election cycle in Louisiana's 4th congressional district.
  76. ^ "Louisiana - Summary Vote Results". The Times-Picayune. 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  77. ^ Krupa, Michelle (2008-10-05). "Bill Jefferson, Helena Moreno to meet in runoff for Congress". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  78. ^ Krupa, Donze (2008-11-04). "U.S. Rep. William Jefferson cruises past Moreno to December runoff". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2008-12-07.  
  79. ^ Michelle Krupa [with Frank Donze], "2 Candidates Offer Alternative Views," Times-Picayune, December 2, 2008, pp. A6, A7.
  80. ^ Rudin, Ken (2008-12-08). "Bill Jefferson Joins A Select Group". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-12-08.   The other two African-Americans defeated in general elections were Republicans Oscar Stanton De Priest and Gary Franks. As of 2008, two African-American incumbent U.S. Senators, Republican Edward Brooke of Massachusetts and Democrat Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, had also been defeated in general election races.
  81. ^ Stephanie Grace, Rehab a tall order for Jefferson, Times-Picayune, March 19, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B7 (accessed March 19, 2009).
  82. ^ James Gill, Jefferson's friends an optimistic bunch, Times-Picayune, April 12, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B5.
  83. ^ The "Friends" claimed to be energized by the acquittal of Alaska's former Republican Senator Ted Stevens.
  84. ^ Stephanie Grace, Jefferson had it all in Times-Picayune, May 17, 2009, Metro Edition, p. B5.
  85. ^ James Gill, "Is Jefferson a factor in City Hall feud?" in Times-Picayune, May 22, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B7. The online version shows Jefferson embracing Tracie Washington at a town hall meeting in 2007 at Trinity Episcopal Church, perhaps ironically Stacy Head’s congregation. Washington was the lawyer who under questionable circumstances published Head's e-mails.
  86. ^ "”Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame”". Retrieved August 22, 2009.  
  87. ^ Frank Donze, "William Jefferson files for Chapter 7" in Times-Picayune, September 1, 2009, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A4.
  88. ^

See also

External links

Louisiana Senate
Preceded by
Frederick Eagan
Louisiana State Senator (Orleans Parish)
Succeeded by
Diana Bajoie
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lindy Boggs
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 2nd congressional district

January 3, 1991-January 3, 2009
Succeeded by
Joseph Cao


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