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Rep. Jefferson: 'Victim'

It turns out we've got embattled Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) all wrong. He is not the mastermind of an alleged bribery scheme. He's a victim.

On Thursday, Jefferson testified in U. S. District Court in Alexandria that he felt bullied by FBI agents who came to search his home back in 2005. The agents yelled at him, Jefferson claimed, and even followed him into the bathroom. Because of the feds' behavior and because they allegedly went beyond the scope of their search warrant, Jefferson's lawyers argue that the lawmaker's comments during that search and the documents seized should all be suppressed.

Perhaps because he was preparing for his court date, Jefferson hasn't bothered to show up for work in Congress since the House returned to session on Tuesday.

There have been 17 recorded floor votes since the session began, and Jefferson missed all of them. That brings him up to 120 missed votes so far for the 110th Congress - or 10 percent of the total. That puts him in the top 10 percent of vote-missers in the House, though he has still put up a significantly better record than some presidential candidates like GOP Reps. Ron Paul (Texas) and Duncan Hunter (Calif.).

Jefferson doesn't have to worry about missing any big hearings, since he is the only member of the House to have no committee assignments. Jefferson resigned from the only panel slot Democratic leaders would give him, on the Small Business Committee, last year.

On the legislative front, Jefferson has introduced 29 bills this Congress, though none since Oct. 23. Only one has become law - a measure to name a New Orleans post office the "Louisiana Armed Services Veterans Post Office."

Lest anyone forget, Jefferson is still theoretically running for re-election. His 2nd district seat should stay in the Democratic column no matter what, but Jefferson can expect to face a very tough primary fight -- as he did in 2006 -- if he stays in the contest.

The next set of Federal Election Commission filings for congressional campaigns is due Jan. 31, and it will be interesting to see how much money Jefferson has left.

As of Sept. 30, he had just $33,000 on hand and $260,000 in debt, though he owed nearly all of that money to himself for personal loans made to the campaign. His fundraising basically ground to a halt last year and he's got lawyers' bills to pay, so it's unlikely he'll have the cash to run a real re-election race.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 18, 2008; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules  
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