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Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Posted 9:57 PM by

Parallels between Fumo and Jefferson cases?

Federal investigations of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson and Pennsylvania state Sen. Vince Fumo seem similar, but which one is the alleged piker?At first blush, the criminal investigations of Louisiana congressman William Jefferson and Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Fumo seem pretty similar.

A 16-month international bribery probe of Jefferson, who allegedly accepted $100,000 from a telecommunications businessman - $90,000 of which was later recovered in a freezer in the congressman's home, culminated in an 18-hour search of his congressional office.

The FBI, IRS and federal prosecutors began looking into Fumo's ties to a series of nonprofits about three years ago questioning whether Fumo "engaged in extortion" while seeking money for them from Peco Energy and Verizon Communications.

Peco gave $17 million to Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods under secret deals in 1998 and 2000 in which Fumo dropped his opposition to the electric giant's business plans, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Feeling stonewalled, the feds launched an obstruction-of-justice investigation which resulted in the arrest last month of two Senate computer staffers. The duo deleted e-mails and other data from harddrives allegedly under Fumo's orders. Both men pleaded not guilty last week.

Jefferson never gave such an order to his staff, but is fighting the search of his office, claiming its covered by the speech or debate clause, which protects elected officials from being questioned by the president, a prosecutor or a plaintiff in a lawsuit about their legislative work.

However, Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan upheld the legality of the raid this month, saying a measure barring lawmakers' offices from being searched could turn Capitol Hill into "a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."

Jefferson is appealing that ruling and won a temporary injunction today preventing a Justice Department review of the documents seized from his office.

There are no such provisions barring a search of a legislator's office in Pennsylvania law. Meanwhile, Fumo insists he is cooperating with the federal probe.

At least Vince didn't appropriate a National Guard helicopter in the middle of hurricane relief efforts just to grab stuff out of his home the way Jefferson did. His Web site still features a picture of him in front of the Superdome, where so many people were stuck during the storm.
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