Jackson Jr. ethics investigation continues

December 2, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Congressman Jackson faces allegations he tried to make a deal with former governor Rod Blagojevich for an appointment to the U.S. Senate.

The House panel wants to know if Jackson or someone representing him offered to raise campaign cash for Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate appointment.

The House Committee on Ethics began its investigation in the spring of 2009 but suspended it several months later at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The government was using some of the same witnesses and evidence in its successful prosecution of Rod Blagojevich, at whose trial Jackson testified.

While the nine-term congressman never faced criminal charges in the Blagojevich affair, on Thursday the ethics committee cited an earlier finding that there was "probable cause" the south suburban congressman knew of a plot by his supporters and the former governor to exchange campaign contributions for Jackson's appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

"Let's be honest. No one wants this cloud over their head," said Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.

But Senator Durbin cautioned the public should not read too much into the extended investigation saying, "the House ethics committee issued a bi-partisan statement. I read it carefully. It said don't assume anything other than we're continuing the investigation."

The ethics committee wants to interview Blagojevich who will be sentenced next week as well as a former gubernatorial aide Rajinder Bedi and businessman Raghuveer Nayak who allegedly discussed the deal at a Loop restaurant in the fall of 2008.

In a statement Friday morning Jackson promised cooperation with the continued investigation: "For the first time in three years, my side of the story will be made public and for that I am grateful. I did nothing illegal, unethical or inappropriate."

Former 11th District congresswoman Debbie Halvorson is challenging Jackson in the next year's Democratic primary in the re-drawn second district. She says the incumbent is spending too much time in Washington defending himself and not enough in his district.

"If he truly did nothing, they should have cleared him. But they did not clear him...and they put together a 300-page report on things that they're looking into," said Halvorson. "We want debates. The people of the 2nd Congressional District deserve to know the differences between he and I but they haven't been able to get him out there to talk about the issues."

In November of 2010 election, Jackson won re-election with a resounding 85% of the vote. But for 2012, he'll face a much better know Democratic primary opponent in Halvorson and the district boundaries have been re-drawn to include more suburban and rural neighborhoods.

It is unclear how Friday's decision will affect Jackson's fundraising efforts. The big donors have been waiting to find out if Jackson would have to run while under investigation.

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