Another Jefferson Subpoena

Posted September 30, 2005 at 6:47pm

A second aide to Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) has been subpoenaed in the ongoing investigation of the veteran lawmaker.

Nicole Venable, Jefferson’s chief of staff, has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury that is investigating whether the Louisiana Democrat illegally pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a startup technology firm during an FBI-authorized sting operation. Jefferson’s homes in Washington, D.C., and Louisiana have been searched, as well as his car, and FBI agents reportedly turned up a large amount of cash that Jefferson had in his freezer. [IMGCAP(1)]

Under Rule VIII of the House, the existence of subpoenas issued to Members and staff must be reported on the chamber floor. Venable’s announcement was placed in the Congressional Record on Thursday.

Another Jefferson aide, Angelle Kwemo, announced that she was subpoenaed on Sept. 12. Jefferson himself has not reported receiving any subpoena so far, although he has hired a criminal-defense attorney and opened a defense fund to defray the costs of his legal bills.

Coburn’s Waiting Room. Sen. Tom Coburn is no longer able to receive payment for practicing medicine, but the Oklahoma Republican is asking his colleagues to resolve the matter in the coming weeks.

Coburn, who continues to see patients, asked Senators in a Sept. 30 “Dear Colleague” letter to support a resolution that would allow “medical professionals to function on a not-for-profit basis.”

Without the support of 67 of his colleagues, Coburn will have to shutter his obstetrics practice within weeks, said his spokesman, John Hart.

“We are going to push very hard for a mid-October vote at the latest,” Hart said.

The Senate Ethics Committee chose Sept. 30 as the date Coburn would no longer be able to accept payment from his patients.

Senate rules prohibit a Senator from receiving compensation from medicine, law, engineering and other professions that involve fiduciary relationships. In the letter, Coburn challenges the idea that allowing him to continue practicing on a not-for-profit basis would be a conflict of interest.

“In the six years I practiced medicine on a not-for-profit basis while serving in the House of Representatives, not a single patient asked me to deliver their baby in an effort to sway my vote,” Coburn wrote his Senate colleagues. “I also never had a lobbyist disguise themselves as a patient in an effort to influence me inappropriately.”

Coburn said he wants to continue practicing because he believes it will make him a “better Senator if I am able to interact with the people I represent not only as Senator-to-constituent, but also as doctor-to-patient.”

— John Bresnahan and Mark Preston