News Column

Though Jackson, Jr. Resigned, Troubles Are Far from Over

Nov. 24, 2012

By From staff and wire reports

Jesse Jackson Jr.'s resignation from Congress might end his once-promising political career, but it doesn't mark the end of troubles for the civil rights icon's son.

Just two weeks after voters re-elected him to a ninth full term, Jackson on Wednesday sent his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner, citing his ongoing treatment for bipolar disorder and acknowledging for the first time an ongoing federal investigation. In the letter, Jackson hinted that a plea bargain may be in the works.

"I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone," Jackson wrote.

Jackson, the eldest son of civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, has been on medical leave since mid-June and has been treated twice at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder.

At the same time, the Chicago-area Democrat was the subject of two separate investigations of wrongdoing.

The Justice Department has been investigating allegations that Jackson, 47, misused campaign funds to redecorate his house and other personal expenses.

Jackson recently hired former federal prosecutor Dan Webb to work out a plea deal in that matter.

CBS News reported that the deal would allow Jackson to resign for health reasons, serve some jail time and require him to repay any campaign funds used for personal purposes.

The CBS report also said Jackson would be allowed to keep his congressional pension. Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, said Jackson would be entitled to about $45,000 in annual benefits when he turns 62.

Jackson -- who has not been seen in public in months -- was also under a House Ethics Committee investigation over dealings with imprisoned former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The Ethics Committee has authority only over sitting members of Congress, so it can no longer punish Jackson, but it could still release a report about its investigation.

The allegation was that Jackson's supporters had agreed to raise money for Blagojevich's campaign if the governor would appoint Jackson to the U.S. Senate seat that became available when Sen. Barack Obama was elected president. Jackson has not been charged with wrongdoing in that investigation.

In the wake of Jackson's announcement, his attorneys issued a statement about the campaign-finance matter: "Mr. Jackson is cooperating with the investigation. We hope to negotiate a fair resolution of the matter but the process could take several months."

"I think it won't be too long before we hear an announcement of a plea agreement," said Bruce Reinhart, a white-collar defense lawyer in West Palm Beach, Fla., who was a federal prosecutor for 19 years. "The government doesn't like people who are going to plead guilty to abusing public office to remain in a position of public trust. Resignation would be a significant bargaining chip for Congressman Jackson in order to get a better deal from the government."

Late Wednesday, the congressman's father told reporters his son resigned because he didn't believe he could continue to serve effectively while also trying to get well.

"He made the decision to choose his health," the elder Jackson said.

He also said there is no way of knowing how long it will take for his son to recover from what he characterized as an "internal unresolved challenge."

"It's not the kind of illness you can put a timetable on," Jackson said, adding that he is confident that his son "will get well in time."

The congressman went on medical leave in June, though his office was never forthcoming about details about his condition, his whereabouts or if he would return.

It was later revealed that he was being treated at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. Jackson returned to his Washington home in September but went back to the clinic the next month. His father said his son had not yet "regained his balance."

In his resignation letter, Jackson said that he returned to Washington the first time against the recommendations of his doctor and then needed to return.

He said that over the months as his health had "deteriorated," his ability to serve his constituents had "diminished."

"My health issues and treatment regimen have been incompatible with service in the House of Representatives," Jackson wrote.

(c) Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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