Wednesday, May 03, 2006

CEO pleads Guilty to Bribing Congressman William Jefferson

As Allan Lengel reports in the Washington Post, iGate CEO Vernon Jackson pleaded guilty today in federal court to two corruption charges: bribing a public official and conspiring to bribe a public official. The surrounding facts make clear that the public official in question is Louisiana congressman William Jefferson.

The bribery scheme involved kickbacks to Jefferson for helping obtain loans from the US Import-Export Bank and contracts with African nations for a tech business named iGate. Jefferson had broached the possible deal to former aide Brett Pfeffer upon hearing that Pfeffer was working for an investment company.

After Pfeffer pursued the deal, he approached Jefferson for help obtaining loans and getting the contracts. Jefferson demanded a 5-7% stake in the venture, in addition to employment for family members. Jefferson even went to Africa to pursue the deals on behalf of his paymasters. See our Corruption Files for more details.

Jackson's plea is the second implicating Rep. Jefferson in a bribery scheme, coming nearly four months after a former Jefferson aide named Brett Pfeffer implicated Jefferson in his guilty plea to bribery. While Pfeffer's guilty plea provided sufficient evidence of Jefferson's involvement in the scheme for us to call for the congressman's resignation, today's guilty plea makes even more likely an eventual finding of guilt against Jefferson.

Louisiana law might not allow sufficient time for an election to replace Jefferson prior to the upcoming November elections. But Jefferson's constituents still might be better served by Jefferson's immediate resignation and the ensuing lack of representation for six months than they are by a person who sells his office for personal financial enrichment.

Former congressman Duke Cunningham, who has since pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme and resigned from office, initially announced that he would not seek re-election when the story broke that he'd received a sweetheart house deal from a defense contractor. It is possible that Jefferson will try the same stalling tactic to put off what seems increasingly inevitable: his conviction on corruption charges and ouster from Congress.

Regardless, the people of Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, who very much need a representative they can count on right now, deserve better than the status quo.

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