Ex-Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is finally in prison?at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina?where he will serve a 2 ?-year sentence for fraud.
There had been some confusion, according to the Chicago Tribune that reported Jackson tried to enter prison Monday afternoon, four days earlier than he was ordered, but was turned away. He was finally booked into the facility at 10 a.m. today.
Jackson, 48, was convicted earlier this year, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with using money from his own campaign fund to support his lavish lifestyle.
The disgraced ex-congressman was once a rising star in the Democratic Party. The son of the famed Civil Rights activist, Jackson was handily re-elected last November to the U.S. Congress where he had served since 1995. This is despite his involvement in a scandal that was virtually ignored by voters who returned him to office.
House Ethics Committee probed Jackson dealings
It may have been pilfering campaign cash that led to Jackson’s ultimate arrest and conviction, but Jackson has engaged in far more than simply trying to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
At the time of his 2012 election in November and resignation from congress soon after, Jackson was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. He was being eyed for his role in potentially trying to buy the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected President in 2008.
Jackson allegedly directed his campaign fundraising pal, Raghuveer Nayak to raise $1 million for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s re-election campaign. In return he wanted Blagojevich to appoint him to Obama’s vacated senate seat. Jackson claimed that neither he nor his emissaries offered money to Blagojevich in return for the appointment, that according to law was solely in the governor’s hands.
The case ultimately landed Blagojevich in jail, where he is serving a 14-year sentence for corruption. Blagojevich’s case is being appealed.
The House probe also considered whether or not Jackson violated House ethics standards when he failed to report airline tickets he directed Nayak to purchase, to fly his mistress to Chicago.
Nayak is also prison bound. He pleaded guilty last September to impeding the IRS and mail fraud. Sentencing is slated for January, according to the Chicago Tribune. Nayak made millions of dollars from a string of outpatient surgery centers he owned in Illinois and Indiana where he allegedly bribed doctors to steer business his way.
Neither Jackson nor Nayak were ever charged for their part in the senate seat debacle.
Jackson’s mysterious illness
Jackson has been diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder, but for months, he was simply missing. He was no longer voting on matters of importance in the House. He was not seen in his district, yet his campaign was continuing its fundraising.
On June 10, 2012, according to an op-ed in the Chicago Sun Times, Jackson was on medical leave. Coincidentally that was just after Nayak was arrested. It was also around the same time that he was facing pressure from an FBI probe related to the Blagojevich scandal as well as the ethics probe in the House. Even some of his supporters were beginning to question where the congressman was and why he couldn’t be reached.
At first, Jackson’s press office issued a statement that Jackson was being treated for exhaustion. It was several weeks later that a spokesperson from Mayo Clinic revealed Jackson’s bi-polar disorder and bouts with depression.
Jackson’s signature issue
All the time Jackson was in congress, he seemed obsessed with one particular issue. It was a state-controlled proposal to build a new airport, one that would rival the size of O?Hare International Airport, on 23,000 acres of prime and important farmland near the small rural town of Peotone, about 40 miles south of Chicago. The airport was first discussed in the 1960?s. It was revived by state GOP leaders in the Illinois legislature in 1985. Many had tried to get the project off the ground; many had failed. Jackson was the latest.
For years, Jackson tried to sell the public on the proposal. Using the argument of jobs and economic development, Jackson did all he could to promote the project, including misleading the public and his colleagues about the location of the proposed airport. For most of his tenure, Jackson tried to claim the airport, though it was actually located outside Jackson’s 2nd congressional district. In 2010 the second congressional district was gerrymandered to include the airport acreage.
In 2007, Jackson sought earmarks on the Financial Services Appropriation bill for ?minority and small business development and procurement opportunities,? a spending bill that would support his pet project. In 2007, C-Span covered a Jackson speech on the House floor where he misrepresented the location of the project. Using the poor, blighted, black community in Illinois?Ford Heights?to illustrate why a huge public works project would be beneficial. During his impassioned speech, he made the claim that the airport would abut Ford Heights. That just wasn’t true. Ford Heights, a Chicago suburb was far from the project’s location, not only in distance, but in character. Ford Heights is one of the poorest communities in Illinois that suffers high crime and unemployment.
The airport footprint however, is in a relatively affluent, rural community, with low crime and virtually no unemployment. The economy is based on agriculture, which contains prime and important farmland.
U.S. Rep. John Campbell, R-CA, introduced an amendment to the strip Jackson’s earmark from the bill, calling Jackson’s request ?federal funding for a phantom airport.? Campbell also questioned the potential conflict in the dual role of Jackson’s Deputy District Administrator Richard Bryant, who Jackson put in charge of the airport authority?Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC)?Jackson spearheaded.
Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s political career was destroyed by his need for self-aggrandizement. He hurt people along the way. While a majority of Jackson’s supporters stuck with him, voting largely along racial and party lines to put him back into office in 2012, Jackson’s other constituents, those from the newly configured portion of his district, are glad to see Jackson finally paying for at least some of his misdeeds.
Edited/ Published by:SB