William Jefferson

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William Jefferson served the 2nd Congressional district of Louisiana from 1991-2008

William Jennings Jefferson had been a Democratic member of the U. S. House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of Louisiana 1991-2008. The district includes much of the Greater New Orleans area. (map) He was defeated by Anh Cao in the general election on Dec. 6, 2008.

Record and controversies

General information about important bills and votes for can be found in Congresspedia's articles on legislation. You can add information you find on how William Jefferson voted by clicking the "[edit]" link to the right and typing it in. Remember to cite your sources!

Iraq War

Jefferson voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.[1]

For more information see the chart of U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Iraq War.

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Blood diamonds ethics violation

Jefferson violated House ethics rules in failing to report three trips to Botswana aimed at convincing him to oppose limits on “blood diamond” imports into the U.S., according to ethics experts. The Botswana government charged Louis Garvas Nchindo, the former director of Debswana Diamond Co. Ltd., with illegally funding trips to Botswana, including the three Jefferson took. According to the Botswana government, Nchindo pretended the trips were sanctioned by the Botswanan government as official business when they were really private trips benefiting Jefferson’s and Nchindo’s business interests.[2]

At the time of the trips, Congress was debating whether to impose trade restrictions on African diamonds to try to filter out imports of “blood diamonds.” In 2001, Jefferson signed on as an original co-sponsor to the “Clean Diamonds Act” introduced by then-Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio). Jefferson dropped his sponsorship of the bill right before he left on a trip sponsored by the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower in April 2001.[2]

Federal bribery investigation


The FBI has been investigating Jefferson for his role in an alleged bribery conspiracy involving Jefferson, foreign officials, and deals with two African technology companies. The investigation has centered around Virginia investor Lori Mody--who cooperated with the FBI investigation--and a company called iGate Inc, which held rights to a technology that delivers high-speed Internet service across traditional copper wires. The FBI has alleged that Jefferson committed crimes by trying to arrange for Ghanaian and Nigerian state-owned telephone companies to use this technology. [1]

The FBI filed an affidavit on May 18, 2006 supporting its application for a search warrant that allowed the FBI to search Jefferson's congressional office on May 20, 2006. The FBI alleged that there was probable cause to believe Jefferson committed:

  • bribery of a public official
  • wire fraud (scheme or artifice to deprive persons of honest services)
  • wire fraud (scheme or artifice to obtain money)
  • bribery of a foreign official
  • conspiracy to commit bribery, wire fraud, bribery of a foreign official and to defraud the United States with regard to other charges. [2]
Main article: William Jefferson federal bribery investigation

Hurricane Katrina

Jefferson's district, which includes most of New Orleans, was flooded and devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 31, 2005. The Hill reported on the congressional response to the tragedy, "Democratic leaders appear to have taken the more cautious tack of leaving Jefferson on the sidelines in their effort to respond to the storm."[3] This was largely to do with his ethical worries and the media criticism leveled at him for "diverting the Coast Guard from rescue missions to help him take several large bags out of his house."

Jefferson was criticized by ABC News for the apparent misuse of National Guard resources to check on his personal belongings and property at the height of the Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. According to a military source, Jefferson delayed two heavy trucks, a helicopter and several National Guard members for over an hour while he went back into his house to retrieve "a laptop computer, three suitcases and a box about the size of a small refrigerator". [4]

Jefferson served on the House panel investigating government failures surrounding the construction of levees and the rescue and recovery operations during Hurricane Katrina. While the panel found massive federal government failures that could have lessen the damage of the disaster Jefferson and his Louisiana colleague Charlie Melancon stated that the report fell short by not calling for the removal of Michael Chertoff as head of Homeland Security: "Our judgment, based on a careful review of the record, is that the Department of Homeland Security needs new and more experienced leadership."[5]

In 2007, Jefferson sponsored a bill to extend a federal development program for small businesses affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftereffects in 2005. The program provides participating small businesses with business and technical support from organizations, particularly in applying for federal contracts. The program would be extended for eighteen months. The Small Business Administration estimated that 145 small businesses would accept the extension. On March 27, the bill passed the House by a voice vote.

Main article: U.S. congressional actions to provide disaster assistance



Jefferson was born March 14, 1947 in Lake Providence, Louisiana. His parents had never graduated high school and worked sometimes as sharecroppers. He was educated at Southern University and Harvard Law School. Before entering the House, he was a lawyer, a law clerk for District Judge Alvin B. Rubin, legislative assistant to Senator J. Bennett Johnston and a member of the Louisiana Senate. He twice unsucessfully ran for Mayor of New Orleans, first challenging Ernest N. Morial in 1982, and then being narrowly defeated by Sidney Barthelemy in a run off in 1985.

When long-time 2nd District Rep. Linda Boggs retired in 1990 Jefferson entered the Democratic primary along with State Senator Jon Johnson, Marc Morial, the son of the city's first black mayor, Dock Board member Dooky Chase, and Ted Koppel's cousin Woody Koppel.(AP, 9/18/90) Jefferson won 25% of the vote and Morial won 22% sending the two to a run-off to decide who would be the first black congressman elected in Louisiana since Reconstruction.

Jefferson was attacked by Morial for working as a lawyer for public agencies including Southern University's school board, the Orleans Parish School Board, and the Attorney General's office. Morial also alleged that Jefferson's law firm gained clients through Jefferson's political contacts. Morial was politically wounded when it was revealed that he had fathered a child out of wedlock to a woman in Ivory Coast. (Roll Call, 10/22/90) Despite the bitter contest Jefferson would later back Morial's 1994 mayoral candidacy.

Jefferson wound up winning the election with 52% of the vote. He was aided by receiving a larger portion of the white vote than his competitor and the endorsement of the mayor, Sidney Barthelemy.

Congressional Career

Jefferson quickly rose in the ranks of Democrats and won a seat on the influential Ways and Means Committee. He worked as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus to help black lawmakers gain more political clout on Capitol Hill.

In 1993 he came under fire for setting up a meeting between his former law firm and Resolution Trust Corp. Jefferson was in the middle of being bought out of his partnership but was still on the payroll on the law firm. While Jefferson was not found to have done anything wrong his critics alleged that his actions gave the appearance of a conflict of interest. They further stated that most lawmakers would recuse themselves from such a situation so as to avoid this negative appearance. (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/14/93)

Jefferson lobbied in Congress for an increase in the Community Development Block Grant to help rehabilitate low- and moderate-income homes. He was successful in gaining an 8 percent increase -- the grant increased to $20 million -- over the previous grant. Jefferson also worked to get $1.05 million in federal money for UNITY for the Homeless. (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/2/94)

Jefferson has been a strong advocate of free trade throughout his career. He voted for NAFTA, CAFTA, trade promotion authority, the African free-trade law, and the China bilateral free trade pact. He has taken a lot of heat from his party and from unions for his support of these free trade agreements. In 2003, when he sought to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, opposition from unions and a desire for a Committee Chairman close to her helped to push Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to choose fellow California congressman Bob Matsui.

He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In 1999, he was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Louisiana, but he lost to the incumbent, Republican Murphy J. Foster, Jr.. Voting fell largely along racial lines as Foster won 62%-30%.

2006 Elections

By August 13, 2006, the campaign filing deadline in Louisiana, twelve candidates had emerged to challenge Jefferson. The list included eight Democrats, three Republicans and one Libertarian. The candidates included state Sen. Derrick Shepherd (D), state Rep. Karen Carter (D), and former state representative and New Orleans City Council member Troy Carter (D).

Jefferson faced 12 opponents in Louisiana's open race in the 2006 elections. He led all vote getters, receiving approximately 30% of the vote. Because his total was less than 50%, however, Jefferson and Karen Carter, the second leading vote-getter, were forced to compete in a run-off election. [6] He won the run-off 57% - 43%, capturing 79% of the precincts black vote. [7]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00005353&cycle=2006</crpcontribdata>

Links to more campaign contribution information for William Jefferson
from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Committees and Affiliations


Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

More Background Data

Wikipedia also has an article on William Jefferson. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


DC Office:
2113 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-6636
Fax: 202-225-1988
Web Email

District Office- Gretna:
Jefferson Parish General
Government Building, Suite 3200
200 Derbigny Street
Gretna, LA 70053
Phone: 504-368-7019
Fax: 504-263-1285

District Office- New Orleans:
1012 Hale Boggs Federal Building
500 Poydras Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone: 504-589-2274
Fax: 504-589-4513

Articles and resources






  1. Roll call vote, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Susan Crabtree, "Watchdogs hit Jefferson on 'blood diamond' trips," The Hill, January 23, 2008.


Local blogs and discussion sites

Corresponding article on Wikipedia and Cause Caller. (If Cause Caller link does not work, pick from its list of senators and representatives.)

Current Office: None
111th Congress
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110th Congress
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Committees: House Committee on Small Business
Congressional Career
First Elected to Current Office:
November 6, 1990
First Took Current Office:
January 3, 1991
Next Election:
Term Ends:
January 3, 2009
Freshman Member?
Previous Political Work?
U.S. House of Representatives, Louisiana Senate,
Other Party Membership:
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Phone: / Fax:

Campaign Contact:

Webform Email: / Email:

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Date of Birth: March 14, 1947