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He also played a highly visible role two weeks ago when 32 Members, led by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), visited New Orleans to survey the damage from last summer’s storm. Jefferson helped organize a meeting between the lawmakers and local civic and business leaders, despite fears within Democratic circles that his presence could prove politically embarrassing.
Jefferson, along with Watt and fellow Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon (D), was also called upon last month to brief fellow House Democrats on the Katrina cleanup effort at one of the party’s weekly Caucus meetings.
And in a move that was noted with interest in political circles, Jefferson held a fund-raiser last week at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. How much money he raised for a re-election bid that may never actually be launched is unclear.
Republicans have sought to use the allegations against Jefferson to deflect Democratic attacks on a GOP “culture of corruption” in Congress, and Jefferson’s fellow Democrats are plainly uncomfortable talking about him or his situation. Numerous Democratic Members approached by Roll Call for comments on Jefferson declined to speak either on or off the record.