June 19, 2006

$90,000 in the freezer.

It's got such a hilarious snakes-on-a-plane obviousness to it, doesn't it? I enjoyed this dialogue on Fox News Sunday:
BILL KRISTOL: You know, I kind of like Bill Jefferson. He's my kind of Democrat, you know, the best tradition of Louisiana's Democrats. You know, he's not one of these upscale guys who has a private safe at home. He's got to keep his cash somewhere. And the freezer is a useful place, you know. It's typical of Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat -- if you don't keep your money in a safe, you know, you get kicked off a committee.

CHRIS WALLACE: Well, I'm glad you're pleased with yourself on that.

JUAN WILLIAMS: You like that Tupperware as opposed to the safe. That's good. No, but look. The fact is the Democrats really want to inoculate themselves against this charge. But they do so at the cost to Bill Jefferson. And he legitimately raises the race issue because, my goodness, Gary Condit was under investigation for murder and they didn't kick him off of anything. And Dan Rostenkowski -- think back to that. Rostenkowski wasn't kicked off of anything. So you have Jefferson there, but the fact is if the Congressional Black Caucus wants to say that this is somehow a double standard, they have to remove themselves from the interests of the general party, and the general Democratic Party going forward in this election definitely wants to say that the Republicans -- Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, all that -- has a culture of corruption -- and Duke Cunningham -- I could keep going on -- and that they are going to be distinct from the appeal made by the Republicans. They're going to distinguish themselves from that, and so they've got to get rid of Jefferson. He's got to go overboard.

WALLACE: Before I bring in Brit, why is it that they don't do this to Mollohan, they didn't do it to Condit, they didn't do it to Rostenkowski, and they did it to Jefferson?

WILLIAMS: Well, that's my point.

WALLACE: Do you think it's race?

WILLIAMS: No, it's not race. This is all politics. This is hardball politics and someone got hurt, and someone may have even gotten unfairly hurt.

WALLACE: But why the politics on him and not the others?

WILLIAMS: Because he's so high-profile, because of what Bill said, $90,000 in the refrigerator.

BRIT HUME: This is what it comes down to, Chris. This is about one thing and one thing only. And it rivets our attention right here. It's about the dough in the freezer. Now, look. I mean, you think about Nancy Pelosi. I suspect she's personally offended by what a poor investment choice it was. I mean, for someone like her, upscale person like her, she can think of several mutual funds it would have been a better place to put the money in. But you cannot stop talking about the guy sticking the money in the freezer. I mean, it's just too eye-catching. And think of that. Think if that guy hadn't done that. This whole culture of corruption issue would still be working. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be a Democratic leader, and these Republicans are involved with all these investigations, and you've got the crooked lobbyist with the black hat and the black raincoat coming out of the courthouse being played on television over and over again, and then one of your guys turns up with 90 grand in the freezer? I mean, it just ruined the whole thing.

53 comments:

retired randy said...

90 Grand is chump change to most of the Republicans that have allready been indicted or convicted. This is just a stick in the muddy river of poitical corruption. "power corrupts, absolute power absolutely corrupts." (author unknown by me), but damned appropriate.

Ann Althouse said...

But he put it in the freezer, and people can't get that picture out of their heads.

Mr. Magoo said...

Remember innocent until proven guilty? In the land of Ann, I guess that applies only to Republicans.


Anyway, Brit is a twit. But he does spout the stuff you love, eh Ann. Fair and balanced indeed.

vnjagvet said...

You might get away with being crooked until you are convicted. And it might be ok to be stupid, so long as you are honest. But obviously crooked and stupid is beyond the pale even for Nancy.

panther33 said...

Perhaps he was in charge of the office snack bar?

archshrk said...

I find it hard to believe the Democrats would single out Jefferson because he's black. But even if that was the case, you have to start to 'stop the corruption' somewhere and Jefferson is very high profile and entertaining (thus all the attention)

Joan said...

I don't care what "Patrick McGoohan" and folks like him say.

I love Brit Hume.

(Apologies if the above mentioned Patrick is not male, but you know how it is on the internet.)

Ann Althouse said...

Patrick: You don't really get the subject here. It's about campaign strategizing and the problem presented by the vivid imagery of the money in the freezer. Reread the dialogue. It's annoying to see you derail the discussion that way. The subject is that the Democrats wanted to paint the Republicans as the party of corruption and then they have this very concret, unforgettable image. Come on. Don't be so damned boring.

Ann Althouse said...

Joan: Yeah, he had me laughing. I wish I had the video clip for you. It was very funny.

And if you're a Democrat and riled by this topic, read Juan Williams's contributions to the dialogue. You've got to admit it's a pesky political problem or you won't have any credibility at all.

Balfegor said...

"power corrupts, absolute power absolutely corrupts." (author unknown by me), but damned appropriate.

Lord Acton, I believe, although I think that may be a misattribution -- not sure. Anyhow, $90,000 is pretty dinky by Washington standards. By politician standards, even, it's not that much. But Jefferson does not strike me as a real mover and shaker, as it were.

And of course, it's a funny image. A novelistic detail. Jefferson's the fellow where the FBI went to his house to investigate, with a warrant or a subpoena for certain documents, which he hid under his elbow, then tried to sneak them off into the living room (which they had already searched), but got caught out. Isn't he? I thought that was funny too.

It's not so much that he's corrupt. I mean, the people who were running Fannie Mae -- that's real corruption there, with real ramifications for real people. No. It's that he looks incompetent at it. He has not quite got the hang of the corruption thing. Gives him a bit of an everyman quality too.

Icepick said...

Anyhow, $90,000 is pretty dinky by Washington standards.

Well come on, Balfegor! Just how big a freezer do you think Jefferson has?

Joe said...

Hysterical, as are some of the comments here. I wager that if they found the body in Condit's freezer, he might have been kicked off a committee, for starters.
McKinney is done with the race card for now, I guess Jefferson can borrow it.
Folks, you can speculate all you want about how much more Republicans are taking, but go ahead and prove it. Right now we have cold hard cash in Jefferson's hot little hand, and Pelosi is fit to bust.

Brent said...

Actually, I believe that Patrick IS the illustration of the very problem that Democrats have, making part of Ann's point.

The overall "world-view" of the Democrats currently in power positions includes the belief that they can convince enough voters on the other side (which they need to win a majority) by using the "values language" of that other side. Thus, because Democrats believe that:

--- I preach honesty and fairness as part of the values of character to my family, all they have to do is "sound bite" Republican failures in that arena, and wildly excuse their own. Then I, if I'm not "a hypocrite", HAVE to vote their way.

---I feel that I value the military as more than a "necessary evil"* and that if they can just get themselves a military guy to take the opposite side, then that's all they need for my vote.

--- Point our that the polls show the president and a generic "Republican Congress" in severe trouble with the American Public, and that I will surely - because I certainly make my life decisions on "what the polls say" - pull the lever for a Democrat. Hey, someone who shares my values!


The Democrats have convinced a large section of the American Public on one thing: elections are for serious business. And when Americans go into the voting booth, the rubber meets the road, and each family shakes hands with the future. That said, there is no Democrat on the national scene that is credible on military issues, or able to be trusted with the war on terror. And the American VOTER, despite the polls, knows THAT fact on Election Day.

Jacob said...

That said, there is no Democrat on the national scene that is credible on military issues, or able to be trusted with the war on terror.
No Democrat? Really?

Balfegor said...

Icepick:

Well come on, Balfegor! Just how big a freezer do you think Jefferson has?

Oh come now! His code word for bribes was "African Art!" I can't help but think that if he were really being bribed with African Art, he wouldn't be in this mess. That's how the professionals do it, isn't it? Or the professional money-launderers, at least. Heh.

tiggeril said...

How much room does 90 large take up, anyway? That might be incentive enough for me to defrost my freezer.

PatCA said...

A friend of mine had some jewelry stolen from inside her freezer. The cops told her everybody hides stuff there and the burglars know it (apparently too the FBI). So Jefferson is not too smart, either.

The Drill SGT said...

Tiggeril,

crisp new 20's in 2000 dollar packets are about 1/4 inch high. So that makes a bit over 11 inches of bills if they were new. If they were old, say 1/3 inch per 2k or 15 inches. (my Army time as a pay officer. we always paid in crisp 20's)

That brings us to the overlooked point. Why only 90k? Cause the FBI is cheap and could only afford a 100k bribe. The alledged facts are that Jefferson took lots of bribes, bribes to influence entire countries. The FBI has him on video accepting 100k in marked bills, 90k of which turn up in his freezer. Nancy P knows there is tape and it is gonna get shown over and over once the trial comes around and the WaPo FOIA's the video. Even a DC jury understands Video, marked bills, and cash in the freezer. Nancy is trying to cut her losses.

Kev said...

I remember one of Rostenkowski's prosecutors saying that it's always the penny-ante stuff that trips up the corrupt politicians. They sweat out the details on to funnel the millions, but 90 thou in chump change? Keep it in the freezer for now.

Ann Althouse said...

This thread got me wondering how common it is to keep valuables in the freezer, so I Googled "keeping valuables in freezer." I got a lot of hits advising people that burglars know the usual hiding places like the freezer so don't hide things there.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, Pat beat me to it. I was on the phone in the middle of writing my comment just then.

Jim H said...

Jacob: Maybe it was hyperbole that you were responding to--the claim that no Democrat can be trusted with the war on terror. But the most trustworthy Democrat on the subject is Joe Liebermann. That isn't working out so well for him at the moment.

Jim H said...

make that "Lieberman"

Kev said...

Uh oh--another Kev posting on Althouse. This could get confusing...

Jacques Cuze said...

I'll come in again....

After seeing how Denny Hastert dealt with Tom Delay, I can well understand why Republicans like Ann Althouse would be stunned and amazed at Nancy Pelosi's reaction.

Ann, you really should read better blogs. Try TPM, TPMMuckraker, Atrios, Digby and Tristero and GlennGreenwald.

And for funny and informative, your friend TBogg


And turn off that TV.

Ann Althouse said...

I know MyLittlePony boy wants so badly to get my attention. He keeps stomping his little hooves and flaring his nostrils. But he will have to trot back into his quaggmire. The popular girl is still not interested.

As for Powerline... it never even crosses my mind to go there.

tiggeril said...

Drill SGT- is that all? Sheeit, I'm getting the hair dryer out. I just have to finish off the rest of the ice cream too, and I'm all set.

So... who's got $90k?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

When we were preparing wills for soldiers deploying in the first Gulf War, we told them to put their will in the freezer if they didn't have a fire-safe. [NEVER in a safety deposit box because you can't get to it without red tape]. Think about what would be the last thing to burn in a house fire. It made sense.

I love the filthy lucre becoming cold, hard cash. The visual is perfect.

Icepick said...

Ann, I think you should delete all of Pony Boy's comments until he allows comments on his blog. After all, what's good for the goose is, uh, sauce for the, uh, Pony Boy. Um, wait a minute. That's not right.

...

Anyway, delete 'em all, sez I, until Pony Boy proves he's not a gelding and allows comments on his blog. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Ann Althouse said...

Icepick: "PonyBoy" doesn't refer to Jacques. Reexamine the clues.

the pooka said...

I'm not willing to stipulate that $90k is "chump change," "dinky by Washington standards," etc. Most members of the House aren't so rich that an effort-free, tax-free, 90-large in cash wouldn't hold some attraction to them. I think there's a tendency to mix up the amounts legislators "spend" (as in, "the Senate today passed a $122 billion spending bill") and what they actually earn.

That said, Ann's right: This is not the sort of thing the Dems need right now. If I were Pelosi and Co., I'd come down very hard on this guy, to show that (a) this is no longer the party that let (e.g.) Rostenkowski slide for so long, and (b) to make distance from the Cunninghams, Delays, etc.

Word verification: "hiwheleo."

Def.: What Karl Rove did on his tricycle after hearing about Jefferson's freezer.

Icepick said...

Ann, you mean Number 6? I thought Q used that name for a while back in the day ("Number 6" specifically), along with Beta, Quxxo, and his current nom de blog. But I guess Mr. Drake sounds a little more like a certain not-quite-as-ex-as-he-first-claimed-to-be blogger.

Pogo said...

Bribe money in a freezer.
Dismissal from a powerful committee.
A penalty only applied to a black congressman.

And I thought the Republicans were bent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. All the Democratrs need now is to abandon any pretense to military defense and, ...uh oh.

Can a Democratic proposal to cede California to Mexico be far behind? Por la raza!

Mack said...

It's a great tactical statement by Hume, but I think there's very little truth to it.

I'm sure Dems are annoyed, but it hardly undoes Delay and Abramoff. Bill Jefferson is not Tom Delay, by any means. This is a tabloid story, similar to Gary Condit, not a story of the House Majority Leader going down on corruption charges.

In any case, I think the cynicism toward the GOP has already been engendered by Delay/Abramoff. Not to mention, Delay is out. His fall from a beloved conservative leader to an ousted embarassment is a huge GOP casualty already.

Really, I doubt Dems get much more mileage out of Abramoff either way. Hasn't that fizzled out on its own? I'm sure the guys at Fox would like to do everything they can to tie Jefferson into that mess, but it strikes me as a lot of wishful thinking.

Joe said...

Pogo, don't be silly. The dems would never cede CA to Mexico, it's a blue state. Red states, they would in a heartbeat.

MadisonMan said...

Gary Condit was never charged with anything, and in fact, if I remember correctly, won several libel cases following the discovery of Chandra Levy's body. So being under investigation does not mean guilty.

But the image is indelible, like the Representative stuffing $25K into his pockets during abscam, or Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe and the jump into the tidal basin. Of course, Mills was reelected even after that!

Memo to politicians: if you want to be corrupt, be boring.

Pogo said...

Gary Condit was never charged with anything...
He admitted to an affair with Levy, and a flight attendant (whom he had asked to sign an affidavit denying the relationship).

He was most unhelpful with the police investigation at first, fearing discovery of his fling with an intern.

Not guilty of murder, but he was dishonest and two-timing. Proving once again that it's often the cover-up, not the crime. He was hardly a victim, except of his own actions. In that most lurid sense, then, his case was like Jefferson's, being penny-ante compared to others, but sexier, more concrete.

SteveR said...

As noted, the actual exchange on TV was very funny, the fact that it put the Democrats in an uncomfortable political position. The actual point is very obvious but the way this played out in what is normally a serious format, is what I enjoyed.

David said...

Jefferson violated one of the fundamental laws of being in politics.

Never, ever, take bribes during an election year. Especially if your party is running on an anti-corruption platform.

Timing and perception are everything. Jefferson didn't even read his own party's agenda. Fitting that he came from Katrina ravaged Louisiana.

WV caxcurm - cajun for Louisiana Hayride.

Balfegor said...

Never, ever, take bribes during an election year. Especially if your party is running on an anti-corruption platform.

Well . . okay. But honestly, what better time could there be for bribes than an election year? In an election year, you can funnel all the money into a PAC or your reelection campaign, and whisk it out again by hiring members of your family to run your campaign or something like that.

Also, isn't an election year the time to bribe a congressmen? Election year is when they and their party need the cash (particularly if they're Democrats, who run at a fundraising disadvantage vis-a-vis Republicans, and doubly so after McCain-Feingold), and when their susceptibility to your influence is at its maximum, no?

Barry said...

Sorry to tangent... but I think Jefferson must be a Monty Python fan:

"I've got ninety thousand pounds in my pyjamas.
I've got forty thousand French francs in my fridge.
I've got lots of lovely lire.
Now the Deutschmark's getting dearer,
And my dollar bills would buy the Brooklyn Bridge."

(lyrics to the "Money Song")

Bruce Hayden said...

I would agree that Pelosi is cutting her losses. The FBI has a video tape, they were marked bills, etc. Yes, he may be innocent, but that is not very likely.

Maybe they could have stonewalled pointing out that Jefferson was innocent until proven guilty, but DeLay did, voluntarily, resign his much more visible leadership post, and the chances of convicting him are far lower than for Jefferson - they don't have DeLay on video tape and didn't find marked bills in his freezer.

So, prior to Jefferson's committee removal, you had the Democrats screaming that about the Republican "Culture of Corruption", a Republican leader doing the right thing in resigning when indicted (regardless of the merits of the case), and the Democrats stonewalling in the face of much more clear guilt.

So, Jefferson had to go. And, even if it looks racist, it most likely wasn't. It was just hardball politics.

MadisonMan said...

Election year is when they and their party need the cash (particularly if they're Democrats, who run at a fundraising disadvantage vis-a-vis Republicans, and doubly so after McCain-Feingold)

Is this still true? I vaguely recall that Kerry was able to raise just as much money as Bush in '04. It may be true that Democrats in House seats have a fundraising disadvantage against Republicans, but how can you separate out the incumbent effect in those races?

But as I say, this is only a vague recollection.

Balfegor said...

Is this still true? I vaguely recall that Kerry was able to raise just as much money as Bush in '04. It may be true that Democrats in House seats have a fundraising disadvantage against Republicans . . .

They have, although it has been eroded in the past few months by grassroots disgust with the current Republican congressional leadership (primarily on immigration and spending, I think, although we've also seen the grassroots grow leery of Bush's instincts on judges too, with the Miers affair), and by an energised Democratic base, buoyed up at Bush's declining poll numbers and the thought that at long last, they might be able to beat him!

This article indicates that the RNC has managed to raise about twice as much as the DNC, in this election cycle ($140M vs. $70M), and has rather more in the bank at the moment. On the other hand, this article indicates that other elements of the party are doing better at making up their fundraising disadvantage, managing to reach 85% of the Republican total. So there appears to be a shift from the way it was back in the 2004 election cycle, when, even though Kerry almost managed to match Bush, Democrats overall seem only to have managed 69% of the Republican total.

MadisonMan said...

Thanks for the info!

Thorley Winston said...

Can a Democratic proposal to cede California to Mexico be far behind? Por la raza!

Well Representative John Conyers was kind enough to announce a while ago that if he got to be a committee chair, he intended to hold Congressional hearings on his pet issue of extorting money from taxpayers in the name of “reparations” for slavery.

Elizabeth said...

Jefferson is my congressman; I'm in his district. He's been known here as Dollar Bill for years, for his ability to bring home the dollars. To his district, not his freezer. But over the past few years, he's lost his luster for a lot of us because his family is a political enterprise, and not a good one.

He will no doubt have some support here for his claim of racism, but I don't think it will be enough to help him. For many of us, the last straw was when he commandeered a National Guard vehicle to drive him to the door--past the flood water and right up to the door--of his house a few days immediately after Katrina. He came out with a suitcase and some personal stuff. Well, hell, Bill, we all wanted to get in our homes and rescue some stuff! And those NG units were really busy right about then, saving people who were clinging to their roofs, or languishing in their attics. Who died so Bill could grab his clean undies?

I'm happy Pelosi has taken a hardline with him. I also know his scandal does nothing to pretty up the smell coming from the various GOP culprits. They all stink to high heaven.

BJK said...

$90k in the freezer...but how much is in his sock drawer?!?


Do they have a warrant for the shoe box under the bed yet?


(Given the general distrust for politicians, I don't know that it's ever a good time to attempt a 'culture of corruption' campaign on a national level. Against individuals, sure, but not against a party as a whole.)

Balfegor said...

(Given the general distrust for politicians, I don't know that it's ever a good time to attempt a 'culture of corruption' campaign on a national level. Against individuals, sure, but not against a party as a whole.)

It works all the time, though. That's what the Tories got kicked out for with John Major, and what Labour may well be kicked out for with Tony Blair. I don't have a firm recollection on this point, but I rather suspect it played a role in the Democratic collapse in 1994 too.

People run with it because it works. And it works for the opposition in large part because no matter what the opposition's appetite for corruption will be once it's in power, as the opposition, it simply does not have the opportunities for corruption the governing party has.

Jim H said...

Um...Elizabeth, in light of more recent events do you really believe the suitcase Jefferson retrieved from his home during the flood was full of clean clothes?

Elizabeth said...

Jim, no indeed. It was after the FBI had searched his house, but there's no reason to believe he couldn't have later moved money or documents there again. But even if it was only a suitcase, the elitism, the sheer gall, was too much. The Guard was needed for saving lives, not escorting congressmen to their homes.

Bruce Hayden said...

And then apparently getting the NG SUV stuck because Jefferson took so long to get his stuff together while he had them wait.

aaron said...

The money in the freezer implies that this type of activity is common for Jefferson. He's doing this thing so much that he has to hide cash all over his home because the turn over rate for bribes is so high that he can't use more covert or discrete instruments.

It's also how blatant the activity is and how readily the story plays in the media.