Republicans have ejected legislators in the recent past who have done wrong (Foley, Ney). Now the Democrats, who ran on the issue of getting rid of “the culture of corruption” in Washington — a culture they attributed to Republicans — have a chance to finally stand up for that conviction of theirs.

An indictment charging Rep. William Jefferson, D- La., in a long-running bribery investigation is being announced Monday, federal officials said.

The indictment is being handed up in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. A press conference was being organized for late Monday in Washington to discuss the case.

A Justice Department official familiar with the case said the indictment outlining the evidence against Jefferson is more than an inch thick and charges the congressman with crimes that could keep him in prison for up to 200 years. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Almost two years ago, in August 2005, investigators raided Jefferson’s home in Louisiana and found $90,000 in cash stuffed into a box in his freezer.

Jefferson, 63, whose Louisiana district includes New Orleans, has said little about the case publicly but has maintained his innocence. He was re-elected last year despite the looming investigation.

As I’ve noted before, Republicans have plenty of examples to point to of people who are gone — not censured, not reprimanded, gone — such as Foley, Ney, Cunningham, DeLay, and Livingstone. The Democrats have an opportunity to show that, unlike how they handled Bill Clinton, they can kick out those in their party who break the rules.

It’s not like Jefferson is the current Majority Leader (as was DeLay) nor nearly the next Speaker of the House (as was Livingstone). If Republicans could do that, Democrats should be able to do this.

True, Jefferson hasn’t yet been convicted, so technically speaking he’s still innocent in the eyes of the law. The news story notes, however, that two associates (who have already pled guilty) and a videotape are waiting in the wings as witnesses for the prosecution. Things are not looking good for the Congressman.

But he’s not convicted yet. If he is, the question is, will Democrats hold their own accountable? If they do, Washington and the nation will be better for it, and I’ll be glad to give them their due credit. Accountability is key. If they don’t, the Democrats completely lose any moral high ground they’ve claimed.

It’s not that one party’s politicians are more corrupt than the others; humanity is what it is. It is all about accountability. Without that, there is no check on the fallibility of our elected representatives.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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