Will William Jefferson's case get as much news coverage as Duke Cunningham's case?

Today at Political Diary, John Fund writes:

Duke Cunningham move aside. The prize for most outrageous abuse of Congressional office may have to be transferred from the disgraced former California solon to Rep. William Jefferson, in whose freezer the FBI is said to have discovered $90,000 in bribe money wrapped in aluminum foil.

Prosecution documents allege that Mr. Jefferson, who represents parts of New Orleans that are as badly flooded as his career path is currently, took the cash from a businesswoman who wore an FBI wire as she sought to buy his influence. The court papers say Mr. Jefferson was going to use the cash to bribe African politicians to give her a contract for her phone and Internet company.

After discovering the cash during a raid on Mr. Jefferson's house, the FBI conducted a follow-up search of his Capitol Hill office, the first time in history that such an indignity has been inflicted on a sitting lawmaker. ABC News reports that the raid only occurred after lawyers for the House of Representatives refused to turn over the material the FBI sought. "Left with no other method, the government is proceeding in this fashion" by requesting a search warrant, wrote FBI agent Timothy Thibault last week in a court filing. A federal judge promptly issued a warrant directing Capitol Hill police "to provide immediate access" to Mr. Jefferson's office. And the FBI team that went in last Saturday night included specialists assigned to separate files related to Mr. Jefferson's alleged crimes from "any potentially politically sensitive" items, a search of which might raise the ire of House lawyers.

I can understand the concerns about separation of powers that House lawyers might believe were raised by an executive agency searching a Congressional office. But blocking access to relevant documents requested by the FBI has the appearance of favoritism towards members of Congress. As for the political files in Mr. Jefferson's office, I doubt that he will be needing them in the near future.

Mr. Jefferson emerged yesterday to call the search of his office "outrageous" and to say he will continue to run for re-election. But even staffers in his office are said to be shopping their resumes to other members in anticipation that there will soon be a vacancy in the seat.


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