ABC: Candidate who allegedly offered Blago money for Senate seat is Jesse Jackson Jr

Better and better. Yesterday he was shocked, shocked to find influence peddling going on. Today? Meet “Senate Candidate 5”:

Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) is the anonymous “Senate Candidate #5” whose emissaries Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reportedly claimed offered up to a million dollars to name him to the U.S. Senate, federal law enforcement sources tell ABC News.

According to the FBI affidavit in the case, Blagojevich “stated he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided ROD BLAGOJEVICH” with something “tangible up front.”

Jackson Jr. said this morning he was contacted yesterday by federal prosecutors in Chicago who he said “asked me to come in and share with them my insights and thoughts about the selection process.”

Jackson Jr. said “I don’t know” when asked if he was Candidate #5, but said he was told “I am not a target of this investigation.”…

“It is impossible for someone on my behalf to have a conversation that would suggest any type of quid pro quo or any payments or offers,” Jackson Jr. told ABC News. “An impossiblity to an absolute certainty.”…

The FBI says in an October 31, 2008 conversation, Blagojevich described an approach from an associate of Senate Candidate 5: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I mad him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”

Fancy that: Another Democratic politician whose cronies allegedly took it upon themselves, completely on their own initiative, to throw money around on their boss’s behalf. Fred Baron did the same thing for John Edwards, you’ll recall, shoveling money to Silky’s mistress for months purely out of the goodness of his heart, unbidden by his political patron. Liberals sure do have amazing friends.

It sounds like they’re talking about campaign fundraising here, not money in briefcases being passed under the table, which presumably makes this the sort of routine backscratching scumbaggery extolled by Axelrod in his 2005 op-ed rather than an actionable offense. Use your office to line your own pockets and you go to jail; use it to line your campaign’s pockets and you’re just practicing Illinois politics. Although didn’t the feds record Blago at one point whining that he felt “stuck” in the governor’s job and wanted something that was more prestigious or more lucrative? For which office was he planning to run that he needed Jackson to fundraise for him?

ABC also notes that Blago and Jackson met just two days ago, at which point Blago said he was close to making a decision. Exit question: Is that why Fitzgerald arrested him now? Byron York studied the timeline and speculates that the Tribune’s story on December 5 about wiretapping spooked Blagojevich into clamming up, putting the investigation at a dead end. I’m skeptical; given how reckless and stupid he is, he’d have started talking again and Fitzgerald surely knew it. I wonder if in fact the feds didn’t move in because they were worried that the appointment was imminent and knew that having this news break after the fact would surround the appointee with a royal political clusterfark.

Update: If you missed Jim Lindgren’s timeline this morning connecting news items on Obama’s preference for the Senate seat to the details of the FBI complaint, make time to read it. It sure sounds like someone within Team Barry got nervous. But who, and why?