“I am cooperating fully with the preliminary review being conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics,” Jackson said in the emailed statement. That confirmed yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times report that the office was examining Jackson in relation to the criminal corruption case against ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Blagojevich believed an “emissary” from Jackson had offered him a “pay to play” scheme, where he would pocket $1 million in campaign contributions if he named Jackson to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now-President Barack Obama, according to the complaint prosecutors filed against Blagojevich.
“As I said when the Blagojevich scandal first broke back in December, I have done nothing wrong and reject pay-to-play politics,” Jackson’s statement read. “I'm confident that this new ethics office -- which I voted in favor of creating -- will be able to conduct a fair and expeditious review and dismiss this matter.”
Last October, prominent Chicago businessmen with connections to both Blagojevich and Jackson reportedly discussed raising money for the then-governor as a way to secure for Jackson the U.S. Senate seat soon to have been vacated by now-President Barack Obama. Blagojevich had the power to appoint Obama’s successor.
The meeting reportedly led to a December fundraiser, which Jackson’s brother, Jonathan, attended. Jackson has called the fundraiser “inconsequential” and denied his brother acted as an “emissary” on his behalf.
Jackson said he was “notified” last week of the probe.
The panel of six non-lawmakers conducting the inquiry has 30 days to review the matter. It does not adjudicate wrongdoing, but can refer matters to the House Ethics Committee with recommendations for further investigation.
“I’m not terribly surprised,” said Cindi Canary of the non-profit independent watchdog, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Since the congressman’s name surfaced in the Blagojevich case, “the clouds started swirling around Jackson’s head,” she said. “A lot of questions were raised, and it’s appropriate they try to answer them.”