Federal prosecutors say embattled Representative William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) used his position as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in a bribery scheme, The Hill newspaper reports:
Prosecutors allege Jefferson wrote to a NASA administrator on Congressional Black Caucus Foundation letterhead to ask that it consider doing business with a U.S. rocket technology company.
In a seven-page document filed last week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, prosecutors said Jefferson recommended that NASA give “close consideration” to the company, which allegedly agreed to pay a Jefferson family business a commission on sales and transactions in West Africa and Central Africa relating to satellite ventures.
Jefferson also appeared to link his support for NASA’s budget to the rocket business. In the July 14 letter to NASA, written nearly three weeks before an FBI raid on his home and office, Jefferson wrote of the challenge “of providing the necessary budget resources to NASA, in an era of tight budgets,” according to the prosecutors’ legal document. In the next sentence, the prosecutors wrote, he encouraged NASA to consider the rocket technology company.
Prosecutors say they don’t intend to charge Jefferson for the newly disclosed bribery scheme but say they will use the evidence against him at trial in January in order to demonstrate a pattern of conduct.
Jefferson has been indicted on bribery and racketeering charges and faces up to 235 years in prison if convicted on all counts, but some members of the Congressional Black Caucus defend him.
In the course of their investigation, FBI agents found $90,000 in cold cash in the freezer at Jefferson’s home. The congressman alleges a weird, 007-like conspiracy. “The $90,000 was the FBI’s money,” he said, according to a media report. “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.”
The foundation Jefferson heads was profiled in the July 2006 issue of Organization Trends.