The Two Sides of William Jefferson:


The Los Angeles Times article on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) paints the man as both highly ambitious and in search of that holy dollar bill and a tireless advocate for the people that sent him to Congress. Here is a story about one side of the man:

An accomplished attorney and aspiring politician, Jefferson became known early on for a pursuit of money that earned him the nickname “Dollar Bill.”

As local legend goes, the name came from Jefferson’s mentor — legendary New Orleans Mayor Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial. Morial had asked his protege for some legal work and was given it — along with a staggering bill. Outraged, Morial coined the moniker.

It followed Jefferson harmlessly enough until last month, when the FBI reported capturing the eight-term congressman on videotape accepting a leather briefcase with $100,000 in alleged bribe money from an undercover informant in front of a northern Virginia hotel. Of those marked bills, $90,000 wound up in Jefferson’s freezer, the FBI said after a search of Jefferson’s Washington home.

But Jefferson also worked to benefit his people:

A member of the influential Ways and Means Committee and an advocate of trade to alleviate poverty in Africa, Jefferson continued his education even while in Congress. He earned a master’s degree in tax law from Georgetown University in 1996, and after Hurricane Katrina he helped pass tax-related legislation to benefit New Orleans.

Jefferson, whose alleged actions are beyond the pale, certainly is not the text book example of a greedy politician. Many in New Orleans feel that Jefferson’s turn to bribery and backroom deals is a real shame, for him and for their community:

“We are so traumatized,” said Stephen Sabludowsky, a New Orleans-based attorney and publisher of, a website about everything Louisianan. “We’re going through so many things, we don’t want the world’s attention on us again.”

Sabludowsky has urged Jefferson to resign rather than saddle the beleaguered city with a distracted congressman. He did so reluctantly, though, describing Jefferson this way: “Incredible … just in terms of his intelligence, his political acumen, the influence that he has….

“That’s what makes this such a shame,” Sabludowsky said.