Bloomberg News

Report Says Jackson Went to Blagojevich’s ‘Guy’ for Senate Bid

December 06, 2011

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. told ethics investigators that he enlisted then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s “guy” to help his effort to win an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama’s election as president, according to a report released today.

The report was released as the House Ethics Committee announced it would continue its inquiry into whether the Illinois Democrat improperly lobbied Blagojevich to appoint him to the Senate vacancy after Obama’s 2008 election. Blagojevich was convicted earlier this year of illegally offering to trade the appointment for campaign cash or personal favors.

The Ethics Committee’s inquiry will “gather additional information necessary to complete its review” of charges referred by the Office of Congressional Ethics, said a statement by the panel’s chairman, Alabama Republican Jo Bonner, and California Representative Linda Sanchez, the ranking Democrat.

Jackson, in a statement, reiterated his previous assertions that he “publicly and transparently” sought the Senate appointment.

“I did nothing illegal, unethical or inappropriate in that pursuit, and I believe that is what the Ethics Committee will conclude at the end of this process,” the statement said.

In a Nov. 15 letter to the committee, also released today, Jackson’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said the lawmaker “never offered to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich in exchange for appointment to the Senate seat.”

Weingarten also said that Jackson, 46, “did not improperly use his office staff and official resources” to seek the appointment. The lawyer didn’t return a reporter’s request for comment on the report.

‘Probable Cause’

In its 2009 report released today, the ethics office said “there is probable cause to believe” that Jackson either “directed” Raghuveer Nayak to raise campaign money for Blagojevich in exchange for the appointment or knew that “Nayak would make such an offer” once he was enlisted to help the congressman persuade the governor to give him the Senate seat.

In a memo of an April 9, 2009 interview the ethics office conducted with Jackson, Nayak was described as a “prodigious and obsessive supporter” of Blagojevich. The memo quoted Jackson directly as describing Nayak as the governor’s “guy.”

Still, Jackson told investigators that Nayak never told him he was planning to raise money for Blagojevich, the report said.

Nayak couldn’t be immediately reached for comment today.

‘Public Campaign’

The ethics office, which has the power to investigate and refer allegations of wrongdoing by House members, said there was “substantial reason to believe” that Jackson broke federal law and House rules by using his official allowance and staff to mount a “public campaign” for the Senate appointment to succeed Obama.

The ethics office investigation was triggered by the disclosure of transcripts of wiretapped telephone conversations involving Blagojevich that an “emissary” from Jackson had offered to raise money or provide “money up front” if the congressman were appointed to the Senate seat, the ethics office’s report said.

The wiretapped conversations were presented by prosecutors in the political corruption case against the former Illinois governor. Blagojevich is scheduled to sentenced Dec. 6 by a federal judge in Chicago.

Blagojevich was impeached by state legislators and then removed from office following a January 2009 trial in the state Senate. In December 2008, while he was still governor, he named Democrat Roland Burris to the vacant Senate seat.

Burris didn’t seek election to the seat in 2010. It was won in that year’s vote by Republican Mark Kirk.

--Editors: Robin Meszoly, Don Frederick

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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