Jefferson Survives Again in Louisiana

William Jefferson, who represents New Orleans in the House of Representatives, has more political lives than a cat.

Jefferson has been under a cloud of scandal since 2005. That summer, as part of an FBI sting operation, he was caught on wiretap making a deal to accept $100,000 in cash from a woman so he could bribe officials in Nigeria and help her with a business venture there. The transfer of the cash to Jefferson was caught on an FBI video camera. Several days later, the FBI raided his home, and found $90,000 in cash in the kitchen freezer. (I once called Jefferson “the Iceman.”)

Representative William Jefferson, LA-02

Jefferson, who serves in Congress from Louisiana’s 2nd House district, had a seat on the powerful Ways and Means committee at the time. But Democrats in the House removed him from the committee when the scandal broke, to the objection of some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Jefferson then shocked everybody by running for re-election in 2006… and winning. He faced 12 opponents that year in the primary, who split the vote; he and another candidate who got the most votes wound up in a run-off election, which Jefferson won. Many feel that Jefferson got a post-Katrina sympathy vote, with many New Orleans voters feeling the government had set him up.

Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on 16 counts related to the alleged bribery. His trial is expected to begin in December.

But that didn’t stop Jefferson from running again this year. This time, he faced six Democrats on primary election day, which was on October 4. None of the candidates got 50%, but Jefferson led everyone with 25 percent of the vote. He will now go into a runoff with former broadcaster Helena Moreno, who got 20 percent of the vote. Moreno is Hispanic; all the other candidates were African American, and they apparently split the black vote.

The runoff will be held on national election day, November 4.

Note: A more pointed review of Jefferson’s election run is at the Skeptical Brotha blog in the post Jefferson Faces Latina in Run-off.

Brief Convention Notes: Hillary, Forum on Black Politics, Michelle

It’s a sure sign of fame, when a person can be referred to by their first name, and everyone knows who is being talked about. So it is with Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

I can’t be more emphatic: Hillary Clinton gave a great speech yesterday. It had so many memorable lines, it’s difficult to pick out any one or two of them as prominent. But these parts of her speech were especially memorable for me:

..I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism, didn’t have health insurance and discovered she had cancer. But she greeted me with her bald head painted with my name on it and asked me to fight for health care.

I will always remember the young man in a Marine Corps t-shirt who waited months for medical care and said to me: “Take care of my buddies; a lot of them are still over there….and then will you please help take care of me?”

I will always remember the boy who told me his mom worked for the minimum wage and that her employer had cut her hours. He said he just didn’t know what his family was going to do.

…I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

That struck a chord with me, as it no doubt will with many of Clinton’s female supporters.

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Links of Interest, 8/11/08

The New York Times Magazine has an article titled Is Obama the End of Black Politics? which is must reading. The article addresses a theme that’s been seen throughout this election: a new generation of African American politicians, symbolized by Barack Obama, is emerging, and their world view is much different from that of the old guard:

The latest evidence of tension between Obama and some older black leaders burst onto cable television last month, after an open microphone on Fox News picked up the Rev. Jesse Jackson crudely making the point that he wouldn’t mind personally castrating his party’s nominee. The reverend was angry because Obama, in a Father’s Day speech on Chicago’s South Side, chastised black fathers for shirking their responsibilities…

Most of the coverage of this minor flap dwelled on the possible animus between Jackson and Obama, despite the fact that Obama himself, who is not easily distracted, seemed genuinely unperturbed by it. But more interesting, perhaps, was the public reaction of Jesse Jackson Jr., the reverend’s 43-year-old son, who is a congressman from Illinois and the national co-chairman of Obama’s campaign. The younger Jackson released a blistering statement in which he said he was “deeply outraged and disappointed” by the man he referred to, a little icily, as “Reverend Jackson.”…

This exchange between the two Jacksons hinted at a basic generational divide on the question of what black leadership actually means. Black leaders who rose to political power in the years after the civil rights marches came almost entirely from the pulpit and the movement, and they have always defined leadership, in broad terms, as speaking for black Americans. They saw their job, principally, as confronting an inherently racist white establishment, which in terms of sheer career advancement was their only real option anyway…

This newly emerging class of black politicians, however, men (and a few women) closer in age to Obama and Jesse Jr., seek a broader political brief. Comfortable inside the establishment, bred at universities rather than seminaries, they are just as likely to see themselves as ambassadors to the black community as they are to see themselves as spokesmen for it, which often means extolling middle-class values in urban neighborhoods, as Obama did on Father’s Day.

This real or imagined generational divide has been discussed a lot, but the Times article is the best I’ve seen on the subject so far.

Dr. Algernon Austin, whose work I cited earlier, is the founder and director of the Thora Institute, which “disseminates facts and analyses about black Americans for the purpose of improving the socioeconomic standing of black Americans.” The blog he writes for the Institute’s site is timely, provative, and informative; I highly recommend it. The latest blog entry (8/10/2008), titled 200,000 Black Jobs Lost to China, discusses the impact of China’s economic expansion on African Americans and the rest of the country:

Between 2001 and 2007, over 200,000 blacks lost their jobs due to U.S. trade with China, estimates economist Robert E. Scott in “The China Trade Toll.” Further, other research estimates that the average black worker earns about $1,400 less a year because of the downward pressure on wages from trade with less-developed countries. America’s trade policies have been driven by what is most beneficial to economic elites, not what benefits average workers in the U.S. or abroad.

The U.S. trade deficit with China has been growing about 21 percent a year. It increased from $84 billion in 2001 to $262 billion in 2007. There are a number of unfair ways that China achieves this export advantage. China devalues its currency. Currently, the yuan, China’s currency, is about 30 percent below its true value. This devaluation basically puts a 30 percent discount on all Chinese goods. China is very lax with labor and environmental laws. Exploiting workers and the environment is cheaper for businesses than following good labor and environmental practices. The combined effect of these policies produces a large and unfair trade advantage to Chinese goods.

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