•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

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 elected official.

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 colonialism.

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 cooperation.

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.

DeLay, Cunningham, Abramoff

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 machine.

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 with anything.

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 warrant.”

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.

Attorney 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 Mexico-U.S. border.

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 Abramoff scandal.

Corruption is endemic to bourgeois politics. The most egregious cases of it are out in the open and do not require any sting operations.

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 proceedings.

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 raids.

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 authorities.

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 educational institute.

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 authority.

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 assassination.

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 self-determination.

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.

The 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.