Jesse Jackson Jr.'s campaign complicated by Blago?

File photo: Jesse Jackson Jr.
July 8, 2010 3:21:20 PM PDT
New questions face Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. about whether he discussed raising money for Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to the US Senate.

Congressman Jackson has maintained that he never knew of any scheme to raise money in exchange for the US Senate seat.

Congressman Jackson -- who could testify later in the trial -- is also up for re-election in the fall. His campaign was complicated this week when an assistant U.S. attorney made an on-the-record allegation that Jackson did know about a plan to exchange a campaign contribution for a Senate seat.

Then the government produced a witness to back up its claim.

The witness, former Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi, is a former governor's office liaison to the Indian-American community. In his testimony Wednesday, Bedi recalled an October 28, 2008, meeting at downtown Chicago's 312 restaurant. It was attended by himself, Congressman Jackson and businessman Raghuveer Nayak. Bedi testified he heard Nayak promise -- in Jackson's presence -- to raise $1 million for Blagojevich if the governor appointed Jackson to the US Senate seat which would be open once Barack Obama became president.

"I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing," said Jackson in December 2008, on the day after Blagojevich was arrested.

Jackson insisted he had no knowledge of any effort by his supporters to exchange a campaign contribution for a Senate seat.

"I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf," Jackson said in December 2008.

But Jackson's Republican opponent, Isaac Hayes, says Bedi's testimony literally puts the congressman in the room when the corrupt deal was being hatched.

"When he gave his statement in December he said that he had no involvement or any knowledge of a particular deal, and now we learn he was right at the head of the table when these discussions took place," said Hayes.

Jackson, who is under a related investigation by the House Ethics Committee, was unavailable for comment and his spokeswoman in Washington would not return ABC 7's phone calls.

"As long as he stays where he is, he doesn't seek another office, he probably is ok," said political consultant Delmarie Cobb.

Cobb said she believes Jackson has ruined his chances to win a Senate seat in the future or to run for mayor of Chicago. She predicts he will win re-election and remain in Congress because the bar for acceptable behavior has dropped so low.

"Not only for elected officials--in our broader society the bar has been lowered, and so the expectations are not nearly the same as they used to be," Cobb said.

During the trial Thursday, there were tapes played on which Blagojevich is heard saying "there are tangible things that could happen" if Jackson was appointed to the Senate seat.

Jackson and Blagojevich held a face-to-face meeting the night before the former governor was arrested.

Congressman Jackson's office has cut off communications with the media. No returned phone calls, no e-mails, nothing.


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