What it means: The illegal exploitation of a public office for the benefit of a private individual or business.
How you can use it: Too often.
In much of the world, graft is the main reason for pursuing any kind of public office. It would be nice to believe that the United States is different -- we're supposed to be different -- but it's hard to be in Washington without seeing open and cynical manifestations of corruption everywhere.
The discovery of $90,000 in Congressman William Jefferson's freezer is just the most egregious (and hilarious, admit it) example of what happens on a smaller scale every day.
Rep. Jefferson says there are two sides to every story, and that all will be clear once he offers his explanation for what the money was doing in his freezer.
I can't wait that long, so I'm offering my own explanation. Post your own in the comments section.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press. My name is William Jefferson, and I'm proud to represent the people of Louisiana's Second District.
As you know, the people of my district have suffered great devastation in the aftermath of last year's Hurricane Katrina. Since then, I have spent every waking hour trying to provide my constituents with the assistance they need, despite the incompetence and intransigence of our current Administration.
I have always believed that my constituents deserve more concrete support than mere words on the floor of the House of Representatives. Therefore, even before the most recent hurricane season, I began a private fundraising effort on their behalf that would circumvent unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.
My efforts to avoid this bureaucracy may have been overzealous; in retrospect, I acknowledge that my willingness to accept contributions in cash may have been ill-considered. The freezer provided a humidity-controlled environment for these donations, because we in New Orleans know only too well how devastating the effects of mildew can be. It would have been tragic indeed if, after my efforts to collect these funds for my people, the proceeds had rotted away even before my associates and I were able to agree on a distribution system for these charitable donations.
Let us not quibble about details here, but refocus our efforts on rebuilding our devastated city together. I urge the FBI to release these funds to the people of New Orleans immediately, to fulfill the donors' original intentions.
Thank you, and God bless America.