Monday, May 29, 2006

MORE ON THE CAPITOL HILL RAID -- GOP split: "Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, on Sunday defended the raid by federal agents on a Democratic lawmaker's Capitol Hill office, breaking with senior House Republicans who had said the search was unconstitutional."

He's considering a presidential run.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jefferson, the subject of the raid, has something of a reputation:
Representative William J. Jefferson has always liked to talk about growing up in an impoverished farm community, picking cotton for $3 a day and hitting the books hard enough to win his ticket out — a scholarship to Harvard Law School.

But even as Mr. Jefferson built a reputation as one of Louisiana's brightest, most effective leaders, a less flattering view began to emerge, one signified by his nickname in political circles, "Dollar Bill."

Early in his career, as a state legislator, he was criticized for enriching his law firm with contracts from state and local agencies. He also ran stores that rented appliances by the month to poor residents, owned dilapidated apartment buildings and was sued by federal regulators over a defaulted loan.
And just when it seems the fight is about high constitutional principles, we find out the emperor has no clothes:
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is moving publicly to put his constitutional showdown with the Justice Department in the past, but many on Capitol Hill believe that the bitter confrontation will resonate in the coming months.

Lawmakers and senior officials say Mr. Hastert's determined challenge to the Justice Department's court-authorized search of a Congressional office arose as much from frustration at missteps and slights by high-level administration officials as it did from outrage over what he saw as a gross violation of Congressional turf.

He and other Republicans were already upset at the Treasury Department for what they saw as the botched handling of the Dubai ports deal. And they held John D. Negroponte, the national intelligence director, responsible for what they considered the humiliating dismissal of Porter J. Goss, the popular former House member who was forced out as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The F.B.I. demand for access to the Rayburn House Office Building suite of Representative William J. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat under investigation in a corruption case, was seen as the last straw by Republican leaders worried about holding their majority in the House in the November elections, particularly with President Bush's flagging popularity.