Feds defer Jackson probe

September 16, 2009 The committee was looking into whether Congressman Jackson or his representatives attempted to buy the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

In question is whether Congressman Jackson improperly used his staff to launch a campaign to convince former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to name him as the state's junior senator.

While not saying directly that South Side congressman Jesse Jackson, Junior is under investigation, the feds on Wednesday acknowledged that Jackson will not be absolved of any involvement in the Rod Blagojevich case any time soon. It means that if Jackson runs for re-election next year he'll have to do so under a cloud.

When the Office of Congressional Ethics investigation was announced in April Jackson said he would cooperate fully and hoped the inquiry would "dismiss this matter" by late July. The OCE's committee on standards focused on whether Jackson knew that during late 2008 his associates allegedly offered Gov. Rod Blagojevich $1.5 million in campaign contributions if Blagojevich would appoint Jackson to Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

But midsummer came and went with no report by the committee which expanded its review to include a look into whether Jackson used his staff or offices illegally to lobby for the Senate seat.

Then last Friday the Justice Department wrote the committee asking them to stop their inquiry saying: "...it would pose a significant risk of interfering with the pending criminal proceedings and ongoing investigation". And the feds added, "we respectfully request that the committee defer further action on the OCE referral until the trial of Mr. Blagojevich and related investigations are completed".

Political consultant Delmarie Cobb, who assisted Jackson during his first election campaign, called Jackson perhaps vulnerable to an election challenge and certainly politically crippled by the investigation.

"We know he is a strong, solid democratic vote inside the Congress. But outside the Congress, in terms of being a voice, a pivotal voice here in chicago, we've lost that. And he's had to operate below the radar," said Cobb.

But longtime Jackson ally and constituent, the Rev. state senator James Meeks disagrees.

"It has not stopped him from doing his job. And I still think he's just as effective as he's ever been before and when he runs for re-election, he's going to win by the majority that he's always won by," said Rev. Sen. Meeks, (D) Chicago.

Congressman Jackson has not commented on Wednesday's developments. He is in Washington presumably attending to business on Capitol Hill.

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