Jackson: "I am not a target"

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. speaks to the media about his status as "Senate Candidate 5" and denounces pay-for-play.


Alex Koppelman
December 11, 2008 4:25AM (UTC)

It's official: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is "Senate Candidate 5." A lawyer for Jackson has confirmed that the congressman and son of the civil rights leader is the person named in the government's complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Jackson starred in this section of the complaint:

In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator."

Now, it's important to note that doesn't mean Jackson himself did anything wrong, or even that any ally of his did either. It certainly appears from the rest of the complaint that Blagojevich had an inflated opinion of what other people could -- and would -- do on his behalf in exchange for the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

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At a press conference on Wednesday, Jackson denied he had any part in such an offer, if one was made. "I want to make this fact plain: I reject and denounce pay-to- play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing," Jackson said. "I did not initiate or authorize anyone, at any time, to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf.

"I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case, or to propose a deal about a U.S. Senate seat, period."

Jackson also mentioned his conversations with the U.S. Attorney's office prosecuting the governor, saying:

I spoke to the U.S. Attorney's office on Tuesday. They shared with me that I am not -- I am not a target of this investigation, and that I am not accused of any misconduct.

In the days ahead, federal law enforcement officials want to meet and discuss what I know about the Senate selection process. I look forward to cooperating with the hardworking men and women of the United States Attorney's Office and the Justice Department.

Jackson, who also called for Blagojevich to resign, sounded like someone who's still very much interested in the Senate seat. He's probably too tainted by the scandal to be appointed at this point. However, he still might have a chance if Obama's successor is chosen by special election, and there are signs that is what will happen.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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