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New Orleans Mayor Gives His Backing to Jefferson

The congressman, under FBI investigation amid bribery allegations, is seeking reelection.

October 08, 2006|From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS — A congressman from Louisiana, the subject of an FBI investigation who was found with $90,000 in cash in his freezer, was endorsed for reelection by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin on Saturday.

"I have been effective, and I will continue to be," said eight-term Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson.

"It's really based on knowledge of the Congress and relationships with members, and that doesn't change."

The FBI is investigating allegations that Jefferson took bribes to help promote business deals in Nigeria.

Jefferson has not been charged, and he denies any wrongdoing.

Nagin told reporters he was returning a favor by endorsing Jefferson.

"He was one of the few elected officials that supported me during the mayor's race, and I told him that if he needed my support, I would reciprocate," Nagin said. Nagin won an uphill reelection bid in the spring despite criticism of how he had handled Hurricane Katrina.

"Until he's indicted, I think we ought to presume he's innocent until proven guilty."

Jefferson said he was counting on Nagin to help him mobilize voters in his New Orleans district, many of whom have been displaced across the country since Katrina hit last year.

Federal agents conducted a controversial search of Jefferson's Capitol Hill office in May, carting out boxes of documents.

Soon after that, the FBI disclosed in a court filing that it had found the cash in Jefferson's freezer in an August 2005 search.

Two former associates of Jefferson have pleaded guilty to bribery charges and have agreed to cooperate with investigators.

In June, Jefferson was removed from the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

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