The Power of Incumbency
How powerful is it?
It’s so powerful that you can get re-elected even if the FBI videotapes you accepting a bribe of $100,000 in neat piles of $100 bills.
It’s so powerful that you can get re-elected even if the Feds find $90,000 of that cash hidden in your freezer.
It’s so powerful that you can get re-elected even if you commandeered National Guard units to help you get your stuff out of your house while your constituents were desperately waiting to be rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
Yes, if you want to know how powerful incumbency is, just ask disgraced Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA), who won re-election in a runoff yesterday.
U.S. Rep. William Jefferson easily defeated his fellow Democratic opponent in a runoff election Saturday, despite an ongoing federal bribery investigation.
In complete but unofficial returns, Jefferson, Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction, received 57 percent of the vote over state Rep. Karen Carter, who had 43 percent…
Carter was unable to capitalize on a scandal that included allegations the FBI found $90,000 in bribe money in Jefferson’s freezer.
Jefferson was forced into the runoff against Carter when he failed to win 50 percent of the vote in a crowded open multiparty primary. Carter had sought to become the first black woman from Louisiana elected to Congress.
He described his win as "a great moment, and I thank almighty God for making it possible."
The Constitution gives each house of Congress the power to expel a member with a two-thirds vote:
Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.
Expulsion means the member in question is no longer a member of Congress. This power has only been used five times in the history of the House; most recently, colorful Rep. Jim Traficant was expelled in 2002 after being convicted of bribery.
Rep. Jefferson hasn’t been convicted of anything yet. Assuming that he is, though (and it would take a towering leap of faith to believe he will not be, given the pile of evidence against him), I’d be disappointed if he did not join Traficant in the roster of the expelled.