Shortly after being outed as the notorious Candidate #5 in the Rod Blagojevich pay-for-play scandal, Jesse Jackson Jr. tried offering an alternative explanation than what the federal complaint suggested. Jackson told the media that he had been working with the feds to take down Blagojevich, but that turns out to be less than advertised. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Jackson tried using the feds to exact a little revenge, but then backed off when he thought he might get Barack Obama’s Senate seat:
There has been a lot reported about U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s cooperation with authorities since Jackson’s name surfaced in the investigation of Gov. Blagojevich’s alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
But some reports seem to have drawn too much from Jackson’s initial statements that he’d been helping federal authorities look into possible wrongdoing by the governor.
Gee, I wonder why that might be? Why would the media rush to exonerate Jackson? Why would people be satisfied with a potential suspect’s assurances that he was innocent without waiting for additional evidence?
Let’s find out just what assistance Jackson was willing to offer, and more importantly, when (emphasis mine):
Late summer 2008: Federal authorities and Jackson have their first telephone conversation about his 2006 meeting with Rezko, a source close to Jackson said last week. During that conversation, Jackson volunteers that his wife, Sandi — who became a Chicago alderman in 2007 — was being considered for a job as Illinois Lottery director in 2002 after Blagojevich had won his first term as governor.
Rep. Jackson also tells the feds that Blagojevich later indicated to him that Sandi Jackson did not get the job because Rep. Jackson did not contribute $25,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign fund.
“During this conversation, the U.S. attorney said, ‘Yes, we would like to sit down with you … about these two things: the Sandi incident and about the meeting with Rezko,'” the Jackson source said.
“And the congressman said ‘Fine, we’ll get together with you guys, no problem.’ However, at the time — this was late summer or so — there was already those thinking that Barack was going to be elected president and that the governor was going to appoint the next U.S. senator.” Jackson then told the feds he was interested in the Senate seat.
“The U.S. attorney said, ‘Fine, what we’ll do is we’ll put it on hold right now. We will get back with you after the presidential election.”
So yes, Jackson did start cooperating with the feds on Blagojevich, but much later than he insinuated in his public statements. He didn’t call the feds out of a sense of civic duty, either — he dropped a dime on Blagojevich to get even for not giving his wife a patronage job. That sense of duty magically disappeared when Jackson sensed he could get something better from Blagojevich, at which point he started playing “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” with the feds. They tried reconnecting with Jackson after November 5th, but he gave them the brush-off again.
A source close to Jackson assures the Sun-Times that the feds told Jackson that he’s not a target of their investigation. Since the rest of the media seems willing to swallow whatever Jackson tells them, I’m certain this will get headline play in national outlets. Even if he didn’t commit any crimes in the Blagojevich pay-for-play scandal, though, Jackson hardly covered himself in glory. His cooperation was solely motivated by political payback, and the hint of personal gain stopped his cooperation dead in its tracks.