N'awlins On Ice

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By all appearences, voters in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional district, in New Orleans and environs, have re-elected bribe-taking Congressman Bill Jefferson over State Rep. Karen Carter.

Jefferson beat back concerns over hiding $90,000 in kickbacks in his freezer and dragooning National Guard to clear incriminating documents out of his House during the Hurricane Katrina by … hey, look after there! His opponent supports gay marriage and cloning!

More seriously, Jefferson won thanks to good old-fashioned political gamesmanship. A seat in the 2nd district, one of the most Democratic in the nation, doesn't come open often. Local politicos knew that if they supported the relatively young Carter, she could hold the seat for decades; but if they supported Jefferson, they could run for the seat themselves when he's inevitably indicted. Witness State Sen. Derrick Shepherd, who came in 3rd in the primary, endorsing Jefferson; witness Jefferson County Parish Sheriff Harry Lee viciously attacking Carter a few days ago, for her saying (correctly) that the parish turned away people escaping the city after Hurricane Katrina.

So Jefferson's basically a former-congressman-in-waiting; his election doesn't mean much in the long run. Oh, except for the contractors and business who've been trying to woo grants and investment down to New Orleans. If you crack open your window and turn down the TV, you can hear them groaning. (Again.)

UPDATE: I added a fresh link to a news story after the result became official. Also, I notice some snickering on Republican sites about how this can be used against the Democrats—where's your "culture of corruption" now, losers! Probably won't work, though. Lousiana has been a perch for corrupt politicians going on seven decades, starting with Huey Long and continuing with Edwin "The Crook" Edwards. Americans more or less expect Louisians to elect criminals. There'll be some fireworks as Congressional Democrats continue to marginalize him, and then he'll go the way of Jim Traficant and Bob Ney.

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  1. He is like the Paul Powell of LA, except he had a freezer instead of shoe boxes.

  2. Speaking as a New Orleans ex-pat, i’m sad tonight. Just mind boggling that Jefferson won ~65% of Jefferson parish – Louisiana deserves the politicians it has.

  3. What were you guys expecting? Has a Democrat Congressman ever lost his job before he was sent to the slammer? Corruption is a prerequisite. He’s probably never been more popular.

    I guess this proves we need to send a few more billion dollars to Louisiana.

  4. “Louisiana deserves the politicians it has.”

    And the weather, too.

  5. Given the track record of the incoming House leadership I’m only surprised that Jefferson isn’t being considered for a leadership position on the House Ethics Committee.

  6. The track record the incoming House leadership has been to strip Jefferson of his committee seat.

  7. Wow, joe…all that? I mean, not like they couldn’t make a ballsy ethical move and actually expel him from that “august body”, could they? Noooo…that would put their majority in danger.

  8. I ,for one, welcome our new liberal/libertarian alliance.

  9. Is this a great country, or what?

  10. Randian,

    Perhaps they will, if he’s convicted of anything.

    Remind me again, what did the Republicans do to Tom Delay? Oh, that’s right; they joined him in his cornered-rat wailing after he was indicted.

    “Noooo…that would put their majority in danger.” Uh, yeah, because Jefferson’s constituents would surely rally to a Republican.

    But hey, nice try.

  11. Ayn_Randian,

    I hate the Dems as much as the next guy, but I’m pretty sure expelling him wouldn’t endanger their majority. First, aren’t they up something like 232-203? And second, wouldn’t he almost certainly be replaced by another Dem?

  12. At least when Republican scumbag crooks get caught, they have the common decency to resign, instead of hanging around rubbing our faces in how foolish the American voters are.

  13. The mechanics of how the party worked the whole thing, as described in the article, doesn’t surprise or really anger me because, it is after all, Louisiana. They really do make Mississippi look good.

    But the people who are voting, the individuals. . . I consider myself a fair minded person; I’m as likely to excuse a jerk in traffic as “you never know, he might be late for the job interview of a lifetime.” I must admit however, to a strong feeling of contempt for the people of Louisiana for electing such people.

    If he were at least as entertaining as Trafficant, I could see some people voting for him almost in protest against the “system” but he doesn’t have that going for him.

  14. The post here gets the factors right about the gamemanship that went on; I marvel at how Republicans are able to blithely ignore just how much a role white conservatives played in allowing this re-election, by buying Jefferson’s anti-gay and anti-abortion rights pandering, and by electing to stay home rather than vote for the more liberal Carter.

    But Andy: ok, we get the politicians we deserve. But the weather? What the hell is wrong with you? People died in that storm. Do you really find satisfaction in that? You’re a shadow of a man.

  15. I have just returned from a fact-finding mission to New Orleans. What I heard from some locals is that Karen Carter is viewed as a crook, too. A vote for Jefferson was a vote for a crook who may be forced out soon. A vote for Carter would have been a vote for someone with a long career ahead.

  16. Beth,

    Do you really believe that weather was natural?

    It was about as natural as that Liberal myth some call the “moon”. My guess is that about 1/3 of the votes on both side were that real too.

    Thanks, I will be online for a few mor years. Good night!

  17. Thankyewverramuch, Guy.

    I guess that’s why they call us moonbats, eh?

  18. Beth,

    I workl for tips and tips alone!

    Franklin Harris,

    So, did you support the women in the arts during your mission? What is the best ladie’s interpritive dance theater there these days? Yes, I mean the ones where the women have “girl” on their original birth certificate.

  19. Guy,

    The main thing I learned is that, palm trees aside, New Orleans can be cold as a witch’s teat, and no amount of alcohol makes you forget it.

  20. “ok, we get the politicians we deserve. But the weather?”

    Politicians kill people too, just not so blatantly and usually not via 150 mph winds.

    No, I don’t get “satisfaction” from seeing people die, but I didn’t lose any sleep over Katrina either.

  21. Stormy Dragon,

    Tom Delay not only hung around after his case broke, but was re-elected as House Majority Leader by the overwhelming majority of the Republican caucus.

  22. joe:

    Too bad for your team that Jefferson will be a big turd in your victory punch bowel.

    So will the Dems forever keep Jefferson on ice? We’re talking about a senior Representative here. You’re telling me that the Dems won’t make any concessions to Jefferson just to keep the Black Caucus happy?

  23. MNG,

    Yeah, no accounting for voters’ taste.

    Silver lining, though, it does give the Dems one more chance to highlight the different way they respond to corruption in their caucus.

    If Jefferson’s deeds had been less flagrant or mediagenic, it is possible that they would have given him a Trent-Lott style demotion rather than putting him out in the old, but Jefferson is just radioactive. Money in your freezer = Teh funny, and the media is all over it. I don’t see him getting cut any breaks.

    But what do I know? I thought he was going to lose the election.

  24. I wouldn’t have voted for Jefferson, but the Democrats should wait until he’s indicted to take any disciplinary action, and wait until he’s convicted to expel him. “Innocent until proven guilty,” remember? Or do libertarians want to subscribe to Ed Meese logic: suspects don’t deserve rights because they’re all guilty. If they were innocent, they wouldn’t be suspects, right?

  25. “Innocent until proven guilty,” remember?

    Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution states “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.”

    It nowhere states that a criminal conviction is required. Otherwise, OJ Simpson and Robert Blake would be eligible for membership.

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