This might be some kind of record, even for Chicago. Just five days after winning a landslide victory in his re-election bid to the House, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has begun negotiations for a plea deal that will send him to the big house instead:
Jackson, Jr., the son of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and husband to Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, has not yet pleaded guilty to alleged misuse of campaign funds to decorate his house and purchase a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend. But CBS Chicago reports the congressman’s lawyer, white-collar criminal defense attorney Dan Webb, is negotiating with the federal government a plea bargain that will likely be reached by year’s end.
The tentative deal includes Jackson, Jr.’s resignation from Congress for health reasons, a “guilty” plea involving misuse of campaign funds, and repayment of any contributions that were converted to personal use. At least some jail time is expected. Jackson, Jr.’s pension, which would pay out between $65,000 and $80,000 a year when he turns 62, is also part of the talks.
Webb, who served as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor during the 1980s, helped strike a plea deal for the late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill. Rostenkowski got 17 months in jail after pleading guilty to converting a congressional postage allowance into personal money, but was allowed to keep his $126,000-a-year pension for the rest of his life.
Jackson’s seat would remain open until a special election could be held. As CBS’ Chicago affiliate notes, there is a little irony in this, as Jackson himself won this seat in a special election after Rep. Mel Reynolds was forced to resign in 1995 before serving prison time for a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. Two years later, Reynolds also got convicted of bank fraud. He eventually got a presidential pardon and tried running against Jackson in 2004 to regain his seat, but lost by a very large margin.
One has to wonder who will take this seat next — and whether voters should start baking cakes for their new Representative with files baked into them.