Jefferson Establishes Legal Defense Account
Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who recently became the target of a federal investigation, has established a legal defense fund in his name, according to documents filed with the Legislative Resource Center.
The Congressman William Jefferson Legal Expense Trust, filed Sept. 7, allows him to raise $5,000 per individual or organization annually. The trust cannot accept contributions from any registered lobbyists or agents of a foreign principal.
Melanie Roussell, Jefferson’s spokeswoman, declined to discuss the creation of the legal trust, saying Friday: “I’m not commenting on anything related to that case.”
Jefferson came under intense media scrutiny after his New Orleans and Washington homes, office and vehicle were the subject of FBI raids early last month. So far, the FBI has declined to comment on the nature of its searches or the investigation.
The Louisiana lawmaker has said he is cooperating fully with federal officials.
News reports have suggested that the probe is part of a federal sting operation that involves a Virginia company. Those same reports said that in the course of the Jefferson raids those FBI agents discovered a large amount of cash in the Congressman’s freezer.
According to House rules, Jefferson had to obtain approval from the House ethics committee to establish the legal trust. If he seeks to make any changes to the purpose of the fund, he will need further approval from the panel.
Several Members facing high-profile ethics allegations have already set up similar defense funds, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). It is unclear whether Jefferson will seek approval from the Federal Election Commission to tap into campaign funds to cover any of his legal tab.
— Erin P. Billings