CHICAGO (CBS) – News reports of new legal troubles for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) have some of his constituents on the South Side and southern suburbs concerned about whether they should vote for him in the November election.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources, a criminal investigation into allegations Jackson misused campaign money to decorate his house is nearing completion, and the congressman’s attorneys have asked federal prosecutors not to seek an indictment before the November election. The Justice Department made no such promise, the report stated.
The federal probe was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, which said the investigation was focusing on “suspicious activity” in Jackson’s finances related to his House seat, and possible improper expenditures.
According to the Sun-Times, the investigation is not related to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempted sale of a U.S. Senate seat, a scandal that has ensnared Jackson in the past.
Many of Jackson’s constituents at a laundromat across from Jackson’s office on the South Side on Monday were troubled by the reports of fresh legal problems for the congressman.
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Samuel Craven said he has not yet decided whether to vote again for Jackson.
“With this right here, it’s going to weigh in my decision,” he said.
Asked if he’s bothered that Jackson has yet to appear in public to explain his recent health issues, or other problems, Craven said, “You know, he’s probably weighed down with guilt.”
Another man, who gave his name only as Eric, wouldn’t say whether he plans to vote for Jackson, but said he’s concerned by the latest legal problems.
“It doesn’t help with us having confidence in any politicians, but you’re finding that that’s very common with a lot of politicians, unfortunately, in this area, in Illinois,” he said.
One woman said she’d already decided before the latest report of legal trouble.
“When I found out he had Bipolar,” she said.
She said she’s feels like the congressman “has something to hide,” since he hasn’t appeared in public since taking a leave of absence this summer.
But others said they’re undeterred by the new criminal probe.
“I’m still voting for him, Jesse Jackson,” he said. “I stay across the street from Operation PUSH. … It’s kind of a good thing, so I’m with him.”
The probe was active before Jackson took a leave of absence from Congress on June 10. His office initially said he was taking time off due to “exhaustion,” but ultimately attributed his absence to treatment for Bipolar II disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He was released from the Mayo Clinic last month and returned to his home in Washington, D.C., but has not been seen in public since taking his leave of absence.
His wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) said earlier this month she is unsure if her husband will return to work, or to the campaign trail, before the Nov. 6 election.
“We’re completely reliant on what the doctors say with respect to the appropriate time for his return,” she said at a City Council meeting earlier this month. “He is on the ballot, he’s going to stay on the ballot, and I’m looking forward to him coming back to work after his reelection.”
The Jacksons put their home in Washington, D.C., up for sale last month to help pay for his medical bills, but later took it off the market, citing security issues.
Regardless of his absence, and his mounting legal troubles, Jackson is still heavily favored to win re-election to his House seat, against three largely unknown challengers — Republican Brian Woodworth, independent Marcus Lewis, and write-in candidate Anthony Williams.
A key Jackson fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak allegedly offered to raise up to $6 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich in 2008, in exchange for Blagojevich appointing Jackson to President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Nayak also admittedly paid to have restaurant hostess Giovanna Huidobro, with whom Jackson was having an affair, flown between Chicago and Washington, D.C. on two occasions.
Jackson has denied directing Nayak or anyone else to offer campaign cash for the seat, or any knowledge of such a deal.Jackson has denied ever authorizing anyone to offer money to Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate seat, and has never been charged with wrongdoing.
In June, days before Jackson’s leave of absence became public, Nayak was arrested on unrelated tax fraud charges. Federal authorities allege Nayak paid bribes and kickbacks to other physicians for patient referrals and filed false tax returns that understated his income.
Jackson’s office has denied his leave of absence has anything to do with Nayak’s arrest.