Joseph Cao For Congress


This was the official 2008 campaign website for Joseph Cao, a long shot Republican, to represent Louisiana's 2nd District, a heavily Democratic distirct. He won the seat by defeating scandal-plagued nine-term incumbent William Jefferson, in what was considered a massive upset in a district that usually votes 75 to 80% Democratic. A key factor in the election was that federal investigators had found $90K in cold cash in Jefferson's freezer., Joseph Cao was the first Republican to represent Louisiana's 2nd district since 1891.
Joseph Cao, the first Vietnamese American representative to the House, represented Louisiana's 2nd District from 2009-11. He failed to win a second term, losing to his Democratic rival, Cedric Richmond.

Content is from the web site's 2008 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.


Know Your Candidate

Lots of politicians talk about rolling up their sleeves and getting to work – Joseph Cao actually does it.

As a community leader, Joseph Cao is making a difference in New Orleans by promoting recovery and helping to rebuild schools, medical clinics, and retirement communities. Over the years, he spent time as a seminarian helping and inspiring those less fortunate to overcome adversity. A former professor at Loyola University and member of the National Advisory Council to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, he understands the importance of education, values, faith and family. With a law degree from Loyola New Orleans, a masters from Fordham, and an undergraduate from Baylor, Joseph has the credentials, discipline, and spirit needed to dependably represent Louisiana. With the drive needed to fight against the odds, he has dedicated his life to preserving the dignity of all people and serving the greater good.

Now Joseph wants to take that same spirit to Congress. He is committed to taking a smart, hard-working approach to Congress to reform Washington and represent the best interests of our families.



Ethics Reform

As a public servant it is not enough to be successful; you must achieve that success with your integrity and the trust of your constituents intact. To accomplish this you must have a set of core values that demands personal honesty and welcomes public transparency.

Like you, my values and my family’s values are rooted in our faith – a faith which has allowed me to build a life I am proud of by employing what many call “good old fashioned hard work”.

It is this same faith and these same values which will guide me as I champion comprehensive ethics reform in Washington. To reestablish our trust our government and our elected officials must become more open and transparent. We cannot cut wasteful spending and inefficient government systems until we are willing to expose those who support them. While we cannot ‘legislate morality’ we can certainly demand moral and ethical behavior from those who have been elected to serve.

This is your money that our government is spending! Let’s demand that they manage your tax dollars with respect and let’s begin by putting a stop to taxpayer funded retirement benefits from any public official convicted of political corruption no matter race, party affiliation or political status.

Hurricane Recovery and Coastal Restoration

Coastal Restoration and levee protection are an essential part to our city’s protection, New Orleans economy and our way of life. We don’t need more talk from politicians in Washington and more studies from the Corps of Engineers; we need someone in Washington who will focus on this issue, someone who will fight to get this job done. I pledge that if elected I will:

  • Work to ensure that Louisiana gets full funding of 100 year flood protection
  • Fight to get our fair share of offshore oil revenues in an accelerated fashion to help restore our coast.
  • Make it a federal crime to steal from victims of declared disasters and to catch contractors who cheat on property repairs.

Public Safety and Economic Recovery

Public safety and economic recovery are interdependent as we cannot rebuild our city to its full potential until our citizens, our communities and our tourists are safe. All available resources should be focused on these critical issues and as your Congressman I will help to promote federal programs that support crime prevention and public safety in our city.

In addition I pledge to:

  • Work with state and local officials to restore faith in the Louisiana judicial system by enforcing and strengthening current laws and programs
  • Support additional funding to our first responders for public safety,
  • Support community policing initiatives that will help to deter crime.
  • Work with churches and community organizations to provide more opportunities for our young people.
  • Lastly I will use whatever influence I have to help retain the Louisiana’s current US District Attorney, Jim Letten, who has served our state so admirably.
Once we have a plan in place to halt the existing crime rate we can focus on new business development and restoring our tourist industry to its former stature.

Healthcare Reform

Louisiana’s unique two-tier healthcare delivery system is no longer viable. We must continue to develop a market-driven model that utilizes the amazing human resources we have available throughout our state. A new approach is needed based on the following three principles:

  • Local solutions
  • Patient-centered care
  • Access to quality care for all
My goal would be to provide every citizen of Louisiana with a medical home that is prevention centered, neighborhood located and electronically connected.

The devastation to the healthcare infrastructure caused by Katrina was catastrophic. As we continue to move forward we must see this as an opportunity to restructure and rebuild to better reflect the needs of the people we are serving.



News 2008



Anh "Joseph" Cao for Congress

Posted by Times-Picayune editorial staff November 30, 2008


 Anh "Joseph" Cao talks in his campaign material about the need for "decent and dedicated" leadership for the 2nd Congressional District. He is exactly right.

After suffering massive damage from Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaks, the district has continued to suffer through the federal corruption indictment of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson and his loss of credibility and influence.

We believe that Mr. Cao, a lawyer and dedicated community advocate, would bring integrity and energy to this vital position. Mr. Cao, who lives in eastern New Orleans, has a stellar record of achievement. He and two siblings fled war-torn Vietnam in 1975, and he eventually earned three college degrees in his new country.

He holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Baylor University, a master's in philosophy from Fordham University and a law degree from Loyola University.

A former Jesuit seminarian, he is a member of the National Advisory Council to the U.S. Conference of Bishops. He also served on the board and as legal counsel to Boat People S.O.S., an advocacy group for Vietnamese refugees. He opened a private law practice in 2002 and specializes in immigration issues. Post-Katrina he led the fight against a landfill that residents in eastern New Orleans feared would harm their neighborhood and has been an effective and passionate advocate for the area's recovery.

That sort of leadership is essential. The 2nd District has been poorly served by Rep. Jefferson, who is under federal indictment on bribery charges. The indictment has been an embarrassment to this community, and it also has meant that the 2nd District essentially lacks representation. Rep. Jefferson has been stripped of any committee assignments and has lost much of his clout.

The 2nd District deserves better. Moreover, it needs effective leadership as it rebuilds. Voters will go to the polls Saturday to choose their representative.

Anh "Joseph" Cao is the best choice for the job.

Lawyers argue, citizens wait

Sunday, November 30, 2008
Stephanie Grace

U.S. Rep. William Jefferson still hasn't let his constituents in on the supposedly "honorable explanation" for the highly questionable behavior that resulted in a 16-count federal indictment, but that doesn't mean his attorneys haven't been explaining a few things to the courts.

In fact, they've been doing plenty of it, mostly in legal filings aimed at getting their client off. And if their assorted arguments are confusing -- and sometimes even contradictory -- well, that's what lawyers do.

Just last week, the nine-term Congressman asked the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to drop 14 of the charges, after a panel of judges from the same court had unanimously refused to do so.

His lawyers claim the grand jury that indicted Jefferson in 2007 should not have have heard evidence about his official duties.. The testimony from an aide about Jefferson's role in passing an African Trade bill and his relationships with leaders of 20 nations, they say, violated the U.S. Constitution's speech or debate clause, which is supposed to protect Congress from interference by the executive branch.

The very same legal team has also argued, in different procedings, that Jefferson could not possibly have committed bribery because helping American companies land business abroad -- for which he stands accused of demanding kickbacks -- is not part of a Congressman's official job responsibilities.

Jefferson may have used his office, the connections he built as co-chair of the Africa Trade and Investment Caucus, and his access to help set up the deals in question, the lawyers tacitly acknowledge. But the feds "did not allege in this indictment that the former Member of the powerful House Ways and Means committee promised anybody any legislation. There is no suggestion that he promised anyone any appropriations. There were no earmarks. There were no government contracts," as one of his attorneys, Robert Trout, put it.

So there you have it: The old "I didn't do it; but if I did, it's not illegal because it wasn't part of my official duties; and if it was part of my official duties, it's off-limits" defense.

Got that?

Then there was the time that Jefferson's lawyers explained that the $90,000 in marked bills found in the congressman's freezer -- soon after he'd been recorded soliciting $100,000 from cooperating witness Lori Mody to pay off Nigeria's vice president in exchange for help landing a telecom contract -- actually exonerated him.

The mere fact that Jefferson still had most of the money, they said, proves no bribe was paid.



GOP survey shows Jefferson may be in trouble with the voters as well as the feds
Sunday, November 30, 2008
James Gill
The Times - Picayune

Conventional wisdom says that Dollar Bill will still be a congressman when he stands trial.

But what conventional wisdom says ain't necessarily so. If you believe a poll commissioned by the GOP, you cannot give a nickel for his chances in Saturday's general election.

We must prepare to dance in the streets. The end of Bill Jefferson's long career will be a reason to rejoice whenever it occurs, but, until now, we had no grounds for hoping it could come this early.

Once Jefferson had won the Democratic primary, we resigned ourselves to at least several more months of national embarrassment and derision. In this district, a black Democratic incumbent, even one as allegedly corrupt as Jefferson, could not possibly have any fear of an unknown Republican challenger.

According to the new poll, that assumption was a big mistake. The numbers say that Jefferson will lose -- and probably big -- to Joseph Cao.Cao, according to those who know him, is well qualified for the job. He immigrated from Vietnam as a child and is now a lawyer with a strong civic background. He also holds degrees in physics and philosophy.But those who know him are in a small minority, so it is not his accomplishments that presage a win. A majority just wants to send Jefferson packing.

Turnout Saturday, with nothing else on the ballot, will be much smaller and whiter than it was for the Democratic primary, which was held on Barack Obama day. But Cao does not have to rely on off-election quirks to win, because hostility to Jefferson runs wide and deep.

Republicans have kicked in enough money to finance a last-minute TV commercial blitz, while Jefferson is more or less broke. If the numbers change in the last few days of the campaign, they will likely tilt even more in Cao's favor.

Those numbers already say bye, bye Dollar Bill. Among white voters, Jefferson is easily the most despised politician around, with an unfavorable rating of 96 percent. Blacks give him 62 percent favorable, but that still leaves 60 percent of the overall electorate taking a dim view.

Jefferson was hitherto thought to have a cadre of supporters sufficient to make him a cinch, but the poll suggests that, while 19 percent would definitely vote for him no matter who ran against him, 40 percent said they would definitely vote against.

In a match-up, Jefferson gets 35 percent and Cao 50 percent. Every number in the poll says that Jefferson can't win unless a huge turn-out swamps white voters. That is not going to happen.


Should Congress Have a Cao?

By Quin Hillyer on 11.20.08 The American Spectator

Sit down and make yourself comfortable, because this is one of those stories you just won't want to miss. It's the kind of story for which this poor pen might not do justice. And it's the kind of story of which the world of politics needs more examples.

It's a story that effectively starts three days before the fall of Saigon in 1975, when eight-year-old Joseph Cao escaped South Vietnam with a brother and sister and eventually made his way to the United States, where he settled with an uncle. As the story continues today, Cao is the Republican nominee for Congress from Louisiana's Second Congressional District (mostly New Orleans), running against William "Cold Cash" Jefferson -- also known as "Dollar Bill" -- who for years has been fighting multiple-count bribery-related indictments after federal agents in 2005 caught nefarious activities on tape and then found $90,000 from the taped transaction hidden in his refrigerator freezer.

Because the congressional primaries were delayed by Hurricane Gustav, the general election was pushed back to Saturday, December 6.

But before you read about the congressional campaign, you'll want to know about what happened between Saigon and today.

What happened first was that Cao's father, a South Vietnamese military officer, was sent to a Viet Cong "re-education camp" for six years. That's why his children had to escape Vietnam without him. As a certain recent presidential candidate could tell you, a Viet Cong camp is not a place where one is treated well.

Anyway, Cao settled in Indiana for four ears, then resettled in Houston for high school, then earned a B.S. in physics in 1990 from Baylor University. Baylor is a Baptist university. But upon graduation, Cao joined the Jesuit order. For six years he remained a Jesuit -- novice, scholastic, regent -- while earning a graduate degree in philosophy from Fordham University, several times doing social (anti-poverty) work abroad (including in his native Vietnam) and then teaching philosophy at Loyola University of New Orleans.

But he was never ordained a priest. He had become interested in politics, and "religion and politics don't mix," he told me. Cao continued teaching philosophy at Loyola while attending Loyola's law school. (From physics to religion to philosophy to law -- quite the intellectual journey.) Along the line he married, and eventually fathered two children. He found that New Orleans East had a vibrant Vietnamese expatriate community boasting a nursery run by Vietnamese nuns and an active church. He set up a shingle as general-practice attorney. He was appointed in 2001 to the National Advisory Council for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He became a board member of a charter school, and a board member for a community development corporation that runs a medical clinic, a retirement center, and an urban farm.

Meanwhile, he and his father, who was eventually released to the United States in 1991 and eventually wheelchair-bound, both greatly admired a U.S. senator named John McCain, whose service to both their native country and their adopted country had been so valiant -- and so similar, in so many ways, to that of Cao's father. He supported McCain strongly in his race for president in 2000 -- and again in 2007-2008, when he was one of McCain's earliest Louisiana backers and eventually a national convention delegate pledged to the senator.

But along the way, there came two little hurricanes. Or maybe not so little. Katrina in 2005 left eight feet of water in Cao's house (in an area mostly home to commercial fishermen, a few miles east of where most of his fellow Vietnamese expats lived), and effectively wiped out the Vietnamese community. "We lost everything," he said, simply.

Local businessman Fenn French, a Republican stalwart whose family has been in New Orleans (and Mardi Gras "royalty") for generations, takes up the story. New Orleans East, he rightly notes, is one of the most unprotected parts of the whole metro area. It was utterly destroyed. "But," he says in enthusiastic admiration, "the Vietnamese community was the very first to stand up its neighborhood again, and they did it without government assistance."

Cao -- short, slight, soft-spoken, and described by French as "one of these good-hearted, salt-of-the-Earth guys" -- was a leader in that effort. After brief sojourns in Baton Rouge, in a nearby town called Westwego, and then in a rental home back in New Orleans East, Cao's own family rebuilt as well.

"It's peaceful out there [where he lives]," Cao told me. "The people are extremely nice, and it's a close-knit community."

IN 2007 CAO MUSTERED the gumption to run for a state legislative seat. He carried the New Orleans part of his legislative district, but he was swamped in the portions that crossed into neighboring St. Bernard Parish, and he thus missed getting into a runoff by a mere 250 votes.

Undaunted, Cao looked at the developing scandal around Rep. Jefferson, and his background in philosophy kicked in. Forget the 66% to 11% (23% "other") Democrat-to-Republican edge in the Second District. Forget the 62% black voter registration (Jefferson is black). "Clearly," said Cao campaign treasurer Murray Nelson, himself the loser last year of a state legislative race and recently the statewide executive director of McCain's Louisiana campaign, "this is a real David going up against a Goliath, but he's a guy who actually taught ethics going against a guy facing multiple indictments. I think he's just offended [by Jefferson's ethics], and he's doing this race for the right reasons, not for himself."

"I want to bring reform back to the Second District," Cao told me. Again, simple as that.

First, though, there was the little matter of meeting his hero McCain in mid-summer and telling his hero about his father's admiration for the senator, and then the Republican National Convention where he could cast his official vote for McCain's nomination. His plane ticket for Minnesota was all lined up -- and then Hurricane Gustav bore down on the Louisiana coast.

Cao had seen that movie before. So Cao forgot the plane ticket. He packed up his wife and two children -- they were not intending to go to the convention -- in the car and drove them all up to Minnesota. Good thing he did. Gustav swung a little south and west of New Orleans but, even so, low-lying New Orleans East got drenched again. From the convention, Cao spoke to a friend who told him Cao's house had a foot and a half of water in it. A foot and a half is a lot. It causes serious problems. He was the only member of the entire Louisiana delegation (or at least of the ones who actually made it to the convention rather than canceling at the last minute) who had major home damage in the storm.

When the convention ended, the Caos returned to find they needed temporary lodging with friends. But now the family is back in its own home, living on the second floor while doing major repair work on the first, still waiting for their flood insurance to come through.

If somebody can shrug over the phone, Cao shrugged. "It is just an inconvenience," he insisted.

The question is, though, whether Cao's campaign is just an inconvenience for Jefferson, or whether Cao actually has a chance.

NOBODY SEEMS TO THINK a win is likely, but local political pros insist that it is doable. There is, of course, the matter of Jefferson's indictments and the local embarrassment about them. There are also investigations and indictments involving non-profits to which Jefferson funneled grants. And several investigations of Jefferson's family members who have served in other local government offices.

On national Election Day, Jefferson won his own primary over a white Democratic opponent, Helena Moreno, by a margin of 92,080 to 70,159. The GOP and independent registration combined is 34 percent and, if Cao can pick off a significant portion of Moreno's Democratic votes -- this time in an election without the heavy pro-Obama turnout working in Jefferson's favor -- the arithmetic starts to look less daunting.

"He has an outstanding chance," insists former New Orleans City Councilman Brian Wagner, also a former Republican National Committeeman. "We have a very compelling candidate who is someone who can do an outstanding job in Congress. He has fought poverty [while with the Jesuits] all over the world, and he's probably the closest thing to a saint who I have ever known who has ever run for Congress…. He has two wonderful, intelligent children, and his wife graduated cum laude at the pharmacy school at Xavier [University in New Orleans]…. It's just a matter of combining that message with the right turnout."

For the last two and a half weeks of the campaign, Cao has about $70,000 cash on hand, with Republican Party committees committed to pitching in (independently) the maximum allowed $84,000. And that was before any late money came in from fundraisers thrown by pillars of the New Orleans community both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, along with a Dec. 4 major fundraiser featuring newly minted New Orleanian Mary Matalin, the famous Republican political consultant. It's enough money for a reasonable TV ad buy and lots of radio ads. And the campaign is hoping for some late endorsements, too.

If Cao wins, he would be the first Vietnamese-American ever elected to Congress -- from, it should be noted, the neighboring district to the one that first sent to Congress a man of Indian descent, Bobby Jindal. And as long as the U.S. Congress should exist on this Earth, Cao might remain the only Congressman who is a Vietnamese refugee-turned physics major-turned Jesuit-turned philosophy professor, lawyer, and dual-hurricane survivor.

And yes, history sometimes does choose odd pathways, and unlikely heroes.


Joseph Cao campaigning in 2011 for s second term.