Reporting Derrick Blakley
CHICAGO (CBS) – Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. hasn’t been on the campaign trail for months, as he’s kept out of the public eye while being treated for bipolar disorder, but he’s certainly been spending his campaign cash, and lots of it.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakely reports, in the four months since Jackson took his leave of absence from Congress and dropped out of public view, his campaign has spent tens of thousands of dollars.
An examination of federal election records showed Jackson’s campaign has spent $110,099 since June 10, the day his leave of absence started.
The expenditures include $39,458 in charges on the campaign’s American Express credit account. The records do not itemize what those charges were for, however.
His campaign also spent about $20,000 to J. Donatella & Associates, the political consulting firm run by Jackson’s wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th).
“Over the last four months, his wife was still getting $5,000 a month from the campaign; where, during those months, he’s in the hospital, he’s not there,” Jackson’s Republican challenger, Brian Woodworth said. “I highly doubt she’s doing the kind of campaign consulting that was considered when she was originally receiving that salary.”
While those payments to his wife’s consulting firm are legal under federal election rules, federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into alleged misuse of campaign funds to redecorate Jackson’s home.
Jackson’s South Shore campaign office was locked up tight on Thursday.
Woodworth and Jackson’s other two opponents in the November election said they believe voters in the 2nd Congressional District deserve a full-time congressman.
“When he was in the hospital, I refused to attack him, but where we’re at now, he’s capable of at least making a statement. He’s capable of talking to the people. He refuses to do it,” Woodward said.
Some constituents have lost patience.
Dhamana Shauri said, “To put it mildly, we’re being short-changed. We don’t have anyone in Washington speaking for us. So it’s like we don’t have a congressman.”
Still, Roosevelt University political science professor Paul Green said it might not matter what Jackson’s opponents say, or that some voters have become fed up with Jackson being off the job and off the campaign trail
“There’s no law that says he has to campaign. There’s no law that says he has to debate. If he wins on November 6th, he wins. There’s no asterisk after his name,” Green said.
Green also said the amount of spending Jackson’s campaign has reported during his absence wasn’t very large, if it was legitimately spent on the campaign.
There’s also nothing illegal about a candidate putting his wife on the campaign payroll. Chicago Congressmen Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez have all done it.