The Big Sleazy


The troubles of corrupt Congressman William Jefferson (D-La.) aren't getting a real going-over in the press. The story's so goofy that it's getting covered, of course—a Congressman taking money from a Nigerian politician and stuffing it in his freezer?—but there's not much analysis of who Jefferson is.

1) He's the congressman from the most blighted section of New Orleans.
2) He could have been the city's mayor.

Both of these factoids hint at how troubled New Orleans really is, and how it re-elected Ray Nagin on Saturday. Jefferson was the frontrunner in the mayoral race of 1986, but his allies ran radio adds accusing opponent Sidney Barthelemy of "passing for white." This did almost nothing to hurt his career—in 1990, he ran for, and won, his seat in Congress. His opponent in that race was Marc Morial, whose momentum was blunted when he admitted that he'd fathered an eight-year-old girl living in the Ivory Coast. Morial, of course, went on to be elected mayor.

Now would be a good time for New Orleans to have hard-charging, ethical representation in Washington—leadership that's held accountable and expected to show results for its work. Unfortunately, that's not how New Orleans elects its leaders.

NEXT: No Such Thing As a Reasonable Smoker

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  1. Now would be a good time for New Orleans to have hard-charging, ethical representation in Washington – leadership that’s held accountable and expected to show results for its work. Unfortunately, that’s not how New Orleans elects its leaders.

    Which makes it different how exactly from the rest of the country?

  2. I just want to be the first to make this joke:

    He was accepting cold hard cash!

    Get it! He hid the money in his freezer! Haha, cold! Haha, hard!

    The problem is that while wrote the last part sarcastically, it WILL NOT be long before bad news writers will be using this same, dumbass line. That is, if they even do any stories on the topic at all…

  3. He was accepting cold hard cash!

    I’ll jump on the band-wagon:

    The D.A. has filed a motion to have Mr. Jefferson’s *other* assets frozen as well.

  4. 1) He’s the congressman from the most blighted section of New Orleans.

    Sloppy work there, Weigel. The 2nd District covers almost all of the city (everything except Lakeview/Lakeshore), and a big chunk of the suburban West Bank. Before we look into who he is, maybe we should get a handle on who he actually represents, no?

  5. I was listening to the NPR report at lunch, no mention that this guy is a Democrat. It was like he was from another planet. That wouldn’t bother me except that everytime they catch a Republican crook, NPR and the media dubs him “a Republican lawmaker” and everytime they catch a Democratic crook, he is simply “a Congressman from X”. It is so obvious it is getting funny.

  6. I imagine he’ll get an Icy reception at the next Democratic conference

  7. Refugee for Life,

    Yeah, I was wondering about that claim myself.

    David Weigel,

    Here is a map of the 2nd District:,_Louisiana_District_2

  8. Taktix,

    That’s because the way he’s tarnishing the party reputation with his corrupt antics makes their blood run cold.

  9. What’s sad is that there are so many honest people who would like these jobs, but they only go to the sleaziest (who are good at self-promotion).

  10. “…Marc Morial, whose momentum was blunted when he admitted that he’d fathered an eight-year-old girl living in the Ivory Coast”

    He was only trying to clinch the 8-year-old African-African bastard vote. Jeez.

  11. The 2nd district contains most of New Orleans, including the 9th ward. By definition it contains the most blighted parts of the city.

  12. Smappy,

    His banker buddies asked if they could launder the money, but he said that if it’s in his freezer, it would be cubed.

    Ok, I’m running out of ideas, I think I might just chill.

  13. David Weigel,

    It also probably contains the most well-off areas of the city. In other words, your statement and my statement tell us exactly nothing about the overall nature of his district.

  14. “The 2nd district contains most of New Orleans, including the 9th ward. By definition it contains the most blighted parts of the city.”

    Outside of the “sliver by the river” and the tourist areas, what areas of New Orleans were not blighted?

  15. “By definition”?

  16. On every level, from national to local, people get the government they deserve.

  17. Don’t blame me, I voted for Emeril.

  18. how many congresspeople do 60,000 people get to have?

  19. His banker buddies asked if they could launder the money, but he said that if it’s in his freezer, it would be cubed.


    You’re handing out bum information. I heard when they asked if they could launder his money he said, “Not a chance. If you run that washer on a spin-cycle you’ll ruin all the meth I’ve stashed in there.”

  20. Taktix,

    And when authorities asked about any skeletons he might have in his closet he got real shame-faced and pled the fifth.

  21. Phil,

    Your statement coupled with David W. statement gives a much clearer picture.

    I always think it is interesting to see what information idealogues choose to ignore. In this case, I’m sure, you were only trying to point out a falacy but I like to put things together afterwards.

  22. John at May 22, 2006 03:04 PM

    The reporter giving this story on NPR this morning made a big deal about Jefferson being a Democrat.

    What I’ve found is that like everything else NPR is not some homogenous momolith of the left. While in general the sympathies are liberal many of the announcers are scrupulously fair.

    And frankly if I were not a libertarian and had not already heard of Reason and Cato
    I would still never have heard of them if I got all my news from network TV.

    Oh, but Dan Schorr really is an insufferable, predictible bore.

  23. Weigel’s willful mischaracterization of the 2nd District seems an attempt to insinuate something about Jefferson’s character. Weigel raises the issue, then offers an answer essential devoid of useful information. My complaint here is about “journalists” who know nothing substantive about the stories they cover.

    John: Without a rigorous definition of blight (which allows cads to hide behind partial truths rather than admit their laziness), look at Broadmoor, Gentilly, Mid City, and much of New Orleans East. That “sliver”, too, gets pretty wide Uptown. NOLA had staggering blight, but still most of the town was working class.

    The 2nd also includes destroyed bits of St. Bernard Parish. Few seem to care about the poor whites who lived downriver of an invisible line that marks the boundary of “Lower 9”.

    The corrupt patronage of NOLA politics as found in Jefferosn’s history also might help those from the Great Elsewhere understand the Mayoral vote. Hard-Charging and Ethical are nice ideals, and probably describe Nagin better than Landrieu.

  24. Nagin may be incompetent, but he is not part of the long running Louisiana corruption machine known as the Landrieu family. Mayor, senator and Lt. Gov, I’d have a hard time believing they haven’t been dipping at the honey pot inmate Edwards and his predecessors secured. Jefferson was apparently left out and had to find his fortune in Africa.

  25. Weigel’s willful mischaracterization of the 2nd District seems an attempt to insinuate something about Jefferson’s character.

    Och, no. Not one of those constipated Internet Fact Checkers who disputes a journalist’s entire reputation because the poor sap reported that they served duck liver on the Titanic one night, when it might have been goose liver instead.

    What’s David Weigel need to insinuate, exactly, that the recordings don’t already spell out?

    Who cares about the minutiae of whether the district is blighted, rich, poor, or all lives inside tree hollows in the Tulgey Wood, for f*ck’s sake?

    As an outsider who’s never been to NOLA and isn’t interested in a street-by-street description of NOLA residents, I think I speak for many other outsiders when I say that the recorded evidence of corruption, and not the navel-gazing analysis of 2nd-district demographic semantics, is the real news here.

  26. I’m from the 9th Ward. It includes the Lower 9th(east bank of the Industrial Canal and south of the Intracoastal Canal) and proper 9th Ward just east of the French Quarter, west of the Industrial Canal, Gentilly, just south of Lakeview, and New Orleans East, my “neighborhood” a huge chunk of land east of the Industrial and north of the Intracoastal, the largest distinct area of New Orleans with the fewest people. Pretty much an industrial area full of warehouses and railyards for the docks on the Intracoastal and Industrial Canals, with some mixed black and white, a few white, but mostly black neighborhoods.

    Not as cut and dry as you’d like to think. And William Jefferson is a sleazy race-baiting crook who received minority set-aside affirmative action benefits for his law firm while he was a representative. Go directly to jail.

  27. zero: Weigel’s failure may be trivial to you, not being from New Orleans. Yet, if the recorder of evidence cannot get the scene right, why do you trust his statements about corruption? The failing is not in missing detail (you don’t care about particular neighborhoods of New Orleans). The failure is attempting to add weight to an argument by misstating a premise, then compunding that failure by pretending it wasn’t a cheap trick at all.

    It is not one journalist’s reputation I call into question. The whole lot of ’em seem to be uninterested in truth.

    I turn your questions back onto you: How is the nature of Jefferson’s district relevant to his corrupt activities? How is the Titanic’s dinner menu relevant to its sinking?

    It isn’t. So why include such info (accurate or not)? Focus on what you call the real news.

    James: Go back at past Edwards to least to Huey Long. Some would say even the corruption in Chocolate City is biased against black graft-seekers.

  28. Ray Nagin ethical? Please, he’s a pandering politician. When he was first running for mayor he pandered to the white middle class and the businesses by being a pro-business Democrat who’d clean out the Morial cronies. He got caught with his pants down during and immediately after Katrina and he’s marching with Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Marc Morial and going on about “Chocolate City”. Chocolate City my ass.

  29. Geotech, I’m sure Nagin isn’t ethical. But I don’t see him forming a family dynasty like so many others manage to do down here. As far as chocolate city, it’s not likely the refugees will be able to afford to move back after the new urbanists redesign everything.

  30. by the way, my willingness to act silly stems from the fact that one more corrupt politician bit the dust.

    One down, 534 to go…

  31. Taktix,

    I believe the actual number is 536: you left out the executive branch.

    And if we count all legislative, executive, and elected judicial seats at the state and local levels . . . I’m getting depressed.

  32. Geotech: Aren’t all politicians panderers? Seems similar to my feeling that all journalists are liars.

    Nagin’s performance in 3+ years pre-K was anomalous for practical accomplishments and non-corruption. He actually did clean out some Morial cronies. If there’s a continuum of virtue, Jefferson is near one end and Nagin has to be at least halfway toward the other end.

    I contend that Nagin has to buddy up with JJ and the poverty pimps because most of the citizens are crazy. You gotta talk crazy to reach crazy people, trying to get them to come back and make the city function. Whatever part of it Nagin actually believes is troublesome, but he’s got more important things to do than refine his personal philosophy.

  33. The “crazy people” made the city function? Are you kidding me? More like dysfunction. They were the easy constituents that Morial, Barthelemy, Morial Jr., Pennington unsuccessfully and now Nagin take advantage of with BS race-baiting preacher rhetoric. The refugees from Katrina were the ones who’ve been bringing the city down for the past 40 or so years. Fuck them, New Orleans doesn’t need them and never did. The times I’ve been back to visit I noticed a cynical “good riddance” attitude towards the poor black population, coming from black and white middle class, who make up the majority of the people who returned. There’s actually a lot of positivity that the city can come back better than before, and that Katrina was a blessing in disguise.

  34. Why has the media dropped the story of Representative Jefferson instructing a Natioanl Guard unit to take him to his home in New Orleans during the evacuation and rescue missions post Katrina? What exactly did he retrieve from his home? Is that part of the information sought with the raid on the Rayburn office building?

  35. Geotech: The poor people and the crazy people are not the same set. Poor people are essentially a liability, and I agree with almost all that “good riddance” sentiment. The crazies (Bush blew up the levees because he hates black people!) are also the truck drivers, dock workers, pharmacy techs, paper shufflers, and so on, who make the city function. That’s the black middle class washed out of Gentilly and NOE.

    And, since we’re talkin’ bout New Orleans, it’s hard to distinguish between function and dysfunction. Without some of what the Elsewhere sees as dysfunction, the city loses much of the goodness of its character. An ideal might be to have government function while the culture continues to dysfunction. Minus the murders.

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