Members Of CBC Aid Jefferson

Posted September 24, 2008 at 6:38pm

Some high-profile members of the Congressional Black Caucus are continuing to rally financially behind embattled Rep. William Jefferson (La.), who faces a crowded field of Democratic opponents in the Oct. 4 primary and then an all-but-certain runoff.

CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), who survived a tough primary of her own earlier this summer, was the latest to cut Jefferson a check for $2,000 on Monday, federal fundraising reports show.

Also giving to Jefferson this month and in late August were Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) along with Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), all of whom are fellow members of the CBC. Both Clyburn and Davis sent $2,000 while Johnson gave $500.

Earlier this summer, CBC members Reps. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) contributed to the nine-term New Orleans lawmaker. Meeks contributed a total of $4,000 through both his campaign committee and leadership political action committee.

Jefferson, under federal indictment on 16 counts of public corruption, has faced a significant fundraising disadvantage compared to his six challengers, several of whom are running campaigns financed by hefty personal loans and a who’s who of New Orleans business and political powerbrokers.

From July 1 through Sept. 14, Jefferson’s re-election committee raised just $46,500 and spent roughly $42,000.

However, the latest fundraising reports filed this week revealed that Jefferson enjoyed a substantial cash-on-hand lead over his opponents heading into the final weeks of the campaign.

While Jefferson showed a rather paltry balance of $106,000 in the bank as of Sept. 14, it is still more than all six of his challengers had in combined available funds.

State Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) has raised and spent the most so far. Although he has loaned his campaign $120,000 in personal funds, Richmond showed just $13,000 in the bank as of Sept. 14.

Among those who have given to Richmond are Memphis attorney Nikki Tinker, who was crushed in an August Democratic primary by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) after she ran a nasty campaign focused on race and religion. Tinker wrote Richmond a $1,000 personal check on Aug. 22, after she lost the primary.

Another contributor to Richmond’s campaign is Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. He sent $4,600, the maximum contribution allowed, on July 16.

Close behind Richmond in the fundraising chase is Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee (D), who has loaned his campaign $130,000. However, Lee had just $22,000 left in reserve as of the latest filing.

New Orleans City Councilman James Carter actually raised the most from individual contributors in the latest pre-primary period, taking in close to $100,000. Still he showed just $10,000 in the bank as of mid-September.

Former TV news anchor Helena Moreno, considered by many as the frontrunner to make it into the all-but-certain Nov. 4 runoff with Jefferson, showed $14,000 left in the bank with three weeks to go before the primary. She had loaned her campaign $50,000.

Also running in the primary are New Orleans City Councilman Troy Carter, who had $16,000 on hand, and Kenya Smith, a former aide to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who showed $15,000 in available funds as of the latest report.

The shortage of funds among the Democrats may be in part because the original primary date was moved back because of Hurricane Gustav.

Jefferson has faced and overcome a substantial financial disadvantage before. In 2006, he faced a dozen candidates on the November ballot and then ended up in a December runoff with state Rep. Karen Carter (D), who outspent him by a 2-1 margin.

Ultimately, Jefferson was re-elected with a resounding 57 percent of the vote, although that was while he was under federal investigation but before he was indicted.

Jefferson is scheduled to go on trial in early December, just days before the Dec. 6 general election. Whomever wins the Democratic runoff in November is all but guaranteed victory in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.