Intelligence Report: Congressman Felon?

November 28, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Now that Jesse Jackson Jr. has stepped down from the House of Representatives, Reynolds announced that he will run for the 2nd District seat and suggests that voters look past his criminal history.

In this Intelligence Report: How can a convicted felon run for office and if he or she wins then serve in Congress?

Mel Reynolds has done his time, paid his restitution, served probation and is now a free man. Oddly, if Reynolds wanted to be a Chicago alderman, he couldn't. At least in this case, aldermen are held to a higher standard.

But a congressman may be a convicted felon, and Reynolds says he wants his old seat back.

The announcement in a downtown hotel Wednesday finally provided an answer to a question the I-Team asked the fallen congressman in 1995: "What do you do after jail?"

Seventeen years later, Reynolds provided an answer to that question: "I am running for congress."

Reynolds was the 2nd District congressman from 1993 to 1995, when he was convicted in Cook County of having sex with a teenage campaign worker.

While in state prison, Reynolds was convicted of federal campaign fraud charges, all of them felonies.

But, the U.S. Constitution doesn't preclude felons from serving here in Congress. The requirements are: You must be 25 years old, an American for at least seven years, an inhabitant of a state when elected.

According to congressional researchers, criminals are not constitutionally disqualified from serving as elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

"I made mistakes," Reynolds said, "but again, that was almost 20 years ago. President Clinton once said to me, 'Do not allow the rest of the world to keep their foot on your neck.' You have to go forward in life."

Dropping Bill Clinton's name was probably no accident. It was Clinton, in 2001, who commuted Mel Reynolds' federal sentence to time served.

Reynolds held a variety of community and church jobs since getting out of prison, including at one point being a youth counselor. Wednesday he said that he is currently self-employed as a financial consultant.

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