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Jackson Jr.'s downfall tied to objects, not power

By Sara Burnett

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:34 p.m. HST, Feb 16, 2013

CHICAGO » For all the talk of Jesse Jackson Jr. aspiring to be a U.S. senator or mayor of the nation's third-largest city, his career wasn't ended by attempts to amass political power.

Instead, it was the former congressman's desire for flashy items — a gold-plated Rolex watch, furs and collectibles, such as Eddie Van Halen's guitar.

In a state where stop-at-nothing political ambition has been well documented — and often rewarded — the seemingly frivolous cause of Jackson's undoing is seen by political observers and former colleagues as both nonsensical and sad.

"When you have a magic name like that, he was in position, waiting for the gun to go off, for mayor, the Senate ... he was playing with the big guys," said Paul Green, a longtime political scientist at Roosevelt University in Chicago who moderated Jackson's first congressional campaign debate. "To go down for this, you just feel sad."

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Jackson Jr. with one count of conspiracy for allegedly spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal expenses. The Chicago Democrat's wife, former alderman Sandra Jackson, was charged with one count of filing false joint federal income tax returns.

Authorities say the returns, for the years 2006 through 2011, knowingly understated the income the couple received.

Both agreed to plead guilty in deals with federal prosecutors. Their sentencing dates have not been set, but the charges both carry possible sentences of several years in prison. Jackson Jr. also could be ordered to repay thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures.

While former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich went to prison because he tried to trade President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat for a more prestigious job or millions in campaign donations, Jackson could go to prison for, in part, buying memorabilia tied to martial arts movie star Bruce Lee.

The son of a civil rights icon, Jackson represented Illinois' 2nd District, which includes part of Chicago's South Side and south suburbs, for 17 years. He was wildly popular in his heavily Democratic district, consistently winning elections with more than 80 percent of the vote.

Jackson served as national co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 and had his eyes on becoming mayor or a senator. But those hopes were dashed when his name surfaced as part of the Blagojevich corruption investigation and with revelations that Jackson had been involved in an extramarital affair.

Jackson denied any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich matter, which involved unproven allegations that he was involved in discussions to raise campaign funds in exchange for being appointed to Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

Suddenly last summer, Jackson disappeared from public view for several weeks. His staff eventually revealed he was being treated for bipolar disorder and other medical issues.

When Jackson resigned from office in November, he cited his bipolar disorder and acknowledged he also was under federal investigation. Sandi Jackson resigned from her Chicago alderman seat in January.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who represents a neighboring district and visited Jackson Jr. shortly after his release from treatment at the Mayo Clinic, said the charges against the Jacksons "couldn't be more unfortunate."

"I think things probably just got out of hand for them and they got involved in making decisions that just didn't make a lot of good sense," Davis said.

Davis wondered whether the long list of luxury purchases mentioned in the federal criminal complaint were "an indication that his bipolar condition kind of was manifesting itself even then."

If so, he said, it's unfair to compare this situation to other Illinois corruption.

"It's hard to rationalize it," Davis said. "Not all elected officials in Illinois are corrupt or building any kind of political dynasty or trying to develop political power. Most individuals elected to public office are citizens who want to make the most effective use of themselves and make this world a better place in which to live."

Delmarie Cobb, a Chicago political consultant who worked on Jackson Jr.'s first campaign and was an aide to his father when he ran for president in 1988, said Saturday she was "absolutely astonished" by the news. She, too, believes Jackson Jr.'s actions were triggered by his bipolar disorder.

"It is just not the Jesse Jr. I knew," said Cobb, who's known Jackson Jr. since he was a senior in college and was present when he met Sandi.

"It's a very sad ending for everybody."


Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Tammy Webber contributed to this report.

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redneckMT wrote:
It was only $750,000.00.
on February 16,2013 | 06:25AM
niimi wrote:
The crooks for rail ought to go to jail for a decade or more. I firmly believe there will be some fraud during rail construction that will dwarf this amount.
on February 16,2013 | 09:00AM
iwanaknow wrote:
Blame it on bipolar..............
on February 16,2013 | 07:31AM
iwanaknow wrote:
Can I bid on the watch?
on February 16,2013 | 07:32AM
mrluke wrote:
Just like his old man...Style over substance.
on February 16,2013 | 07:33AM
niimi wrote:
If JJ were a local Hawaii guy, he would say, "Eh, my boy, he one good one, you know. He not one of those dakine corrupt guys. He one good boy!" Es right, he one good boy make dakine." Yup.
on February 16,2013 | 09:03AM
hanalei395 wrote:
For your sake, don't use that phony pidgin to a local person.
on February 16,2013 | 09:40AM
realist3463 wrote:
He is an Obama supporter and a Democrat. Bet he never sees a day in jail nor has to pay the money back.
on February 16,2013 | 07:34AM
allie wrote:
He was a competitor with Obama. But I am sorry that Jackson betrayed the ideals of the civil rights movement. Hawaiian leaders out here have some of the same corruption problems
on February 16,2013 | 08:06AM
turbolink wrote:
Amazing how you can't pass an opportunity to express your contempt for Hawaiians.
on February 16,2013 | 08:58AM
niimi wrote:
I concur, allie. There is corruption in the movement out here in Hawaii, too.
on February 16,2013 | 09:01AM
Anonymous wrote:
Yep, just look at the top of the democratic party- Hirono, Abercrombie, Hanabusa, Schatts.........and the list goe on, all these inheritors of the democratic party dream, and nothing like the old time politicians who actually cared for the people of the State!
on February 16,2013 | 04:46PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Don't worry about it. He is going to prison. So is his wife.
on February 16,2013 | 10:02AM
cojef wrote:
You are probably right, however it will be very short in view of the fact that; he and she are both former politicians and have outstanding public service records, plus being a son of a civil right activist also helps. I look for a moderate sentence ,like slap on the wrist. Of course, it's Chicago style justice, even though the Federals are involved. Hope I'm wrong and they throw the book at them.
on February 16,2013 | 01:29PM
false wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on February 16,2013 | 07:36AM
Anonymous wrote:
This is Hawaii, where no news, means they just put 'fluff reporting' and call it headline news!
on February 16,2013 | 04:47PM
cojef wrote:
Foiled by the IRS again. Join the ranks of Al Capone, et al.
on February 16,2013 | 07:39AM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on February 16,2013 | 07:57AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Greed conquers all. These two idiots did not think that someday ............
on February 16,2013 | 10:28AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Is Barry still in support of this criminal or is he now distancing himself? I'm guessing Barry really didn't know him that well and just supported the criminal due to party affiliation...how shallow.
on February 16,2013 | 08:42AM
tiki886 wrote:
Blagoyevich, Jackson, Tony Rezko all criminals. Next up, Obama himself. Bet he gets impeached.
on February 16,2013 | 10:29AM
hanalei395 wrote:
tiki only "bets" on a message board.
on February 16,2013 | 10:42AM
tiki886 wrote:
No, only criminals.
on February 16,2013 | 11:02AM
hanalei395 wrote:
On message boards.
on February 16,2013 | 11:06AM
Anonymous wrote:
Crooks plain and simple. Lock 'em up.
on February 16,2013 | 10:36AM
McB0B wrote:
What? A crooked Chicago Democrat? That sure comes as a shock.
on February 16,2013 | 11:27AM
iwanaknow wrote:
We all need to take up a collection for their defense. I believe they are innocent.
on February 16,2013 | 01:46PM
HD36 wrote:
Politicians are usually alot smarter about stealing money. They usually get a family member a job sitting on the board of directors of the campaign contributor, like a big insurance company. The family member gets paid millions, for doing practically nothing, and the politician drafts legislative bills in their favor. The latest Supreme Court decesion allows more campaing contributions with less transparency.
on February 16,2013 | 02:00PM
fstop wrote:
"Instead, it was the former congressman's desire for flashy items — a gold-plated Rolex watch"

Gold plated? Since when did Rolex make a gold-plated watch? He probably bought this on a street corner in NYC.

on February 16,2013 | 03:35PM
Anonymous wrote:
too much 'Bling' and not enough self control for the job at hand............well at least it wasn't power that corrupted a political figure, but who would have thought it would be a 'thing for bling' that brought this mah low...............go figure!
on February 16,2013 | 04:38PM
typroctor wrote:
This is not a problem for Jackson. It's just a temporary setback. When he completes his prison term those voters who gave him 80 per cent will put him in the senate or most likely mayor.
on February 16,2013 | 08:16PM
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