Under the Rock, XLVII: Mose Jefferson and the Orleans Parish School Board
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Former Orleans Parish School Board president and self-styled corruption fighter Ellenese Brooks-Simms will plead guilty in federal court today to charges that she accepted more than $100,000 in bribes from Mose Jefferson -- the eldest brother of indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson -- in exchange for supporting a multi-million dollar math curriculum contract, according to sources close to the case.
But it was all done for the children. Story here, in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Brooks-Simms has told investigators she took the bribes from Mose Jefferson -- who routed them through an intermediary -- in exchange for her help in getting the School Board to approve the purchase of computer labs from JRL Enterprises, sources said.
The company, which created a system that involves software and special learning stations aimed at helping kids learn algebra at their own pace, was founded by New Orleanian John Lee, a longtime supporter of William Jefferson [D-LA, in his freezer!, etc. - ed.] and his extended political family.
Lee confirmed Tuesday that he had hired the congressman's brother to "facilitate introductions to the decision-makers here in Orleans Parish," though he couldn't remember the fee or which officials Mose Jefferson helped the company lobby.
Lee called Jefferson's fee, which sources pegged at upwards of $500,000, "consistent with what we pay all our consultants to introduce us to decision-makers."
JRL has a history of currying political friends, including former Republican Congressman Bob Livingston, who secured funding via earmarks to help several area school districts purchase JRL's learning software.
On at least one occasion, it appears that Jefferson did deliver an earmark for JRL.
In July 2005 -- a month before the FBI investigation into his business dealings burst into public view with raids on his homes [and refrigerators - ed.] in Washington and New Orleans -- Jefferson issued a news release indicating he had secured $2.5 million to help JRL add more of its terminals to schools in Orleans Parish.
Jefferson's spokeswoman Remi Braden-Cooper said the congressman can't remember whether he played a role in securing any additional earmarks. Jefferson did not know his brother lobbied for JRL, she said.
[JRL owner John] Lee, a Garden District resident, has been a regular contributor to the congressman's campaigns as well as those of 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson, the congressman's sister; former City Councilwoman and state Rep. Renee Gill Pratt, a protege of the congressman; and state Rep. Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, one of the congressman's daughters.
All told, Lee, his wife, Donna, and other JRL officials have contributed more than $50,000 to various Jefferson family campaigns since 1998.