Look whose office gets raided
When charge of ‘corruption’ is a cover for racism
Published Jun 8, 2006 8:58 PM
A recent FBI raid on the Washington, D.C.,
office of Congressperson William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana,
represented the use of police-state methods for the dual purpose of diverting
attention from corrupt Republicans while destroying the career of a key Black
On Saturday, May 20, 15 FBI agents carried out the
first-ever raid on the office of a member of Congress in the 219 years of the
legislature’s existence. It so happens that William Jefferson is the first
African American congressional representative to be elected in Louisiana since
the end of the Reconstruction era of 1866-1877.
They also carried out the
first federal raid in history on the home of a foreign official, the Washington
home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
The FBI has been carrying
out a sting operation against Jefferson since March 2005. He is accused in an
affidavit submitted to a federal judge of demanding payments and jobs for
himself and his family in exchange for his help in promoting the interests of a
small Kentucky company, iGate Inc. The firm sought Jefferson’s aid in
getting its Internet and digital television technology into Nigeria and Ghana.
Its special technology uses copper wire and is suitable for use in West Africa,
which lacks fiber optic and satellite technology because of the legacy of
The CEO of iGate, Vernon Jackson, an African American, was
caught in the sting and has pleaded guilty to bribery charges, as has a former
aide to Jefferson, Brett Pfeffer. Pfeffer was sentenced to eight years in
prison, with a promise from the judge to reduce his sentence based upon further
The central player in the sting is a wealthy investor, Lori
Mody, who agreed to invest in the iGate project but went to the FBI sometime in
2005 and began to wear a wire. She is alleged to have given Jefferson $100,000
in marked bills, $90,000 of which was allegedly to be used to bribe a Nigerian
official and was said to be found in Jefferson’s freezer during a raid on
his home last August. Mody, who has been depicted as a philanthropist, got $100
million when she sold her technology business in 2002. Her father also had a
$300 million technology business.
Mody was hooked up with the FBI by a
company called Risk Control Strategies, which, according to its own website,
“has assembled a cadre of former law enforcement and military
professionals who have expertise in ... kidnap investigations [under FBI
jurisdiction—FG], intelligence analysis, anti-terrorism.... The
effectiveness of the RCS relies on our ability to conduct liaison and
coordination with local law enforcement agencies.” In other words, she was
referred to the FBI by former FBI agents. Her lawyer, Bob Cox, is married to
Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia.
The most important thing about the Jefferson case is that it
has nothing whatever to do with the FBI wanting to uncover corruption. It has
everything to do with trying to draw attention away from the corrupt Republican
The racist, reactionary Republican and former House leader, Tom
“The Hammer” DeLay of Texas, has been indicted on money laundering
in connection with a reactionary redistricting scheme and general corruption.
Randy “Duke” Cunning ham from California is now in jail for taking
millions in gifts and money from military contractors. And, in the Jack Abram
off scandals, tens of millions of dollars in bribes were spread around to
several dozen legislators.
Given the racist nature of the FBI, their
history of persecution of Black elected officials and their notorious reputation
for entrapment, stings and frame-ups, it would be completely premature to give
any credence at all to their rendition or interpretation of the facts in the
case. Jefferson has so far denied the charges and has not been formally charged
But, regardless of whether or not Jefferson used his office
for personal gain, one cannot but notice that in the cases of DeLay, Cunningham
and Abramoff, where hundreds of millions and possibly billions of dollars were
involved and the cast of characters included big-time players in the corrupt
game of capitalist politics who fraternized with the ruling class, no highly
publicized FBI raids were launched into the congressional offices or homes of
even one of the dozens of suspects. No affidavits were prematurely leaked to
prejudice the public and the potential jury pool before anyone was indicted, as
in the Jefferson case.
The FBI carried out the raid without notifying
Congress and without having present any congressional legal representative or
anyone representing Jefferson as a legislator. They entered on May 20 and stayed
19 hours until May 21.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune of May 27 reported:
“Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington Univer sity ...
said that the FBI did not seem to even try to reach an accommodation with House
leaders on how to get the documents it wanted. ‘It seems to have been
orchestrated for prime-time news reports and designed to put pressure on the
congressman,’ said Turley, referring to reports that TV news desks were
alerted to the raid ... as well as to the Justice Depart ment decision to
release much of the affidavit used to justify the search
The FBI was emboldened to make such a reactionary
encroachment on Congress by the right-wing atmosphere cultivated by the Bush
administration and catered to by the Democratic Party leadership. Clear ly
impeachable offenses by the National Security Agency—eavesdropping and min
ing telephone calls—were approved without any serious opposition. General
Michael V. Hayden, the architect of this patently illegal NSA spying scheme, has
now become the head of the CIA without a congressional peep.
General Alberto Gonzalez him self was the author of memos that authorized
torture. Prisoners are “disappeared” by the process of rendition
without consequences. Arbitrary detention continues in Guantanamo on the say-so
of the Penta gon. The entire political establishment sat idle as millions of
people of Middle Eas tern and South Asian descent were subjected to
surveillance, intimidation, deport ation and frame-ups. The repressive Patriot
Act was renewed with only minor modifications.
The Democratic Party
establishment has been entirely complicit in the general shift to the right of
capitalist politics—as illustrated by their giving right-wing Supreme
Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito a free pass. They have contributed
to the anti-immigrant hysteria, joining the chorus to build a wall at the
In this right-wing, anything-goes atmosphere, the FBI
was sure that the raid was a “slam dunk.” But to their surprise, the
Republican leaders were upset by the intru sion. It was partly because Dennis
Hast ert, Newt Gingrich and others thought this raid would hurt them in the
elections and also because they were fearful of throwing the first stone, when
the Democrats could possibly get in and use the same tactics against them. In
fact, it is said that Hastert is being looked into in connection with the
Corruption is endemic to bourgeois politics. The most
egregious cases of it are out in the open and do not require any sting
What about Cheney?
Jefferson is accused of
helping a corpora tion get favors. But what of Dick Cheney? This man, just a
heartbeat away from the presidency, is the former president of and still a
stockholder in Halli burton, an oil industry service company. Right after the
election, he invited the heads of the entire oil industry to his office for a
secret session to write energy policy for the entire U.S. and a good part of the
world economy. The White House refused to reveal the transcripts of the
If the FBI were looking for a way to put an end to the
illicit and undue influence of corporate executives on government officials,
they could have started by raiding Cheney’s office.
What of the
no-bid contracts for Halliburton and its subsidiaries in Iraq, with all their
overbilling? That is outright thievery but there have been no FBI
What about the generals who retire and go to work for the
military-industrial complex? The Pentagon is famous for its “revolving
door” of officials who go back and forth from industry to the military.
In the 1980s Senator Henry Jackson from Washington state was known as
“the senator from Boeing” because he was in their corporate pocket
and advocated for every weapons system they made. Sam Nunn of Georgia was known
as “the Senator from Lockheed” for the same reason. Racist Jesse
Helms of North Carolina was “Mr. Tobacco.” And so on. All the big
monopolies have their stooges in Wash ington, either as lobbyists,
representatives, senators, bureaucrats or cabinet members. The FBI never pays a
visit to these corrupt politicians because they deal with the interests of the
real ruling class.
So why is the FBI spending so much time and money on an
attempt to sting William Jefferson? It is because the FBI is a profoundly racist
institution in the service of an oppressive, racist ruling class. The inside
story of the Jefferson case may never fully come out, but objectively his case
is just one more in an endless stream in which Black elected or appointed
officials and political leaders are hounded by the racist
Jefferson had clout in Congress
Jefferson is an
eight-term congressperson, allowing him to be a senior member of the powerful
House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxation and money. He is also
on its trade subcommittee and on the House Committee on the Budget. He is
co-chair of the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus as well as the congressional
caucuses on Brazil and Nigeria. He is also current chair of the Board of
Directors of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and its research and
Jefferson rose from the poverty of a sharecropping
family growing cotton in northeast Louisiana to graduate from Harvard. He rose
in municipal and state politics to become an instrumental figure totally
immersed in the capitalist legislative process. He has risen far above the
masses of the Second District in Louis iana, 65 percent of whom are African
American in the poorest state in the South.
He is hardly a revolutionary
or even a mildly radical figure and is said to be pro-business. But to the FBI
that is of little matter. The rule of the capitalist class is based upon
national oppression. Its most racist institutions, like the FBI, are constantly
trying to curtail the basic democratic right of political representation for
African Americans and all oppressed people at the higher levels of
There are about 9,000 Black elected officials in the U.S.,
heavily concentrated in the South and in densely populated urban areas in other
parts of the country. This is the result of the massive resistance and
sacrifices of the civil rights and Black liberation movements of the 1950s and
1960s, which forced concessions from the ruling class.
But most of these
officials are in municipalities and state houses. At this level, they can only
divide up the crumbs after the big bourgeois politicians at the federal level,
the vast majority white, have parceled out a $2.7 trillion federal budget to the
corporations and the rich.
The higher echelons of political
representation, the top level of the capitalist state, is far more closed to
African Americans than the total number would suggest. There is not one Black
governor. There is only one Black senator. Appoin tees like Colin Powell and
Condo leezza Rice are conservative representatives of U.S. imperialism and light
years away from any concern for the masses.
The only semblance of national
political representation for African Americans within the framework of the U.S.
capitalist political system is the Congressional Black Caucus. Marginalized
already, the CBC would be further weakened by the removal of such a key figure
as Jefferson, who is at least accessible to and can serve as a channel for the
CBC in matters of trade, taxation and the budget. Addition ally, it will weaken
the ability to get congressional funding for the reconstruction of New Orleans.
In other words, the removal of Jefferson would weaken the democratic right of
representation and tend to strengthen national oppression.
This is in the
tradition of racist, ruling-class politics. Adam Clayton Powell, the first Black
congressperson from New York City, who became chair of the important House
Education and Labor Com mittee, was driven out of office in 1967 by charges of
corruption. Edward Brooke, a Repub lican who became the first Black senator
since Reconstruction in 1972, was defeated for a second term after being
vilified in the capitalist press over a divorce process.
Far more damaging
has been the FBI crusade against radical and revolutionary forces. COINTELPRO
operations under the Nixon administration carried out a virtual campaign of
subversion and extermination against the Black Panther Party. Malcolm X was
stalked by the FBI for years. J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, let it be
known that he was out to get Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was spied upon and
hounded by its agents. Many suspect it had a hand in his
Racist FBI and courts
The FBI and the racist
courts should not have the right to deal with William Jefferson. A case in point
is that the au -tho rities took the Jefferson case outside of Washington, D.C.,
a majority Black city where his office and home are. They moved it to a white
section of Virginia, where both a grand jury and trial jury will be selected if
the case goes to trial.
On a purely democratic basis, that should
disqualify the case. It is a case being made by the racist oppressor in a
situation that excludes the oppressed from the process. If Jefferson has given
grounds for suspicion, it should be grassroots representatives of the Black
community in his district, the Congressional Black Caucus and other appropriate
forums and institutions from within the African American community that have the
right to pass judgment. This is a matter of the right of
The idea that the racist, political police of the U.S.
ruling class are interested not in destroying the career of yet another Black
elected official but in stamping out corruption is preposterous. All capitalist
administrations—the Clinton and Bush administrations are
examples—send trade delegations all over the world that take along
representatives of big business, banking and agribusiness to make contacts with
private capitalists and government officials. Instead of dealing in hundreds of
thousands of dollars, however, they deal in millions and billions.
lobbyists for the corporations write legislation for their big business clients
while sitting in congressional offices. They make corruption the normal way of
life in Washington.
The only way to get rid of corruption is to put an
end to the racist, capitalist establishment and its system of exploitation that
is the source of it all.
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