Ethics Committee re-launches probe into whether Jackson attempted to buy Obama’s Senate seat

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday afternoon that it would resume its inquest into Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s role in possibly attempting to purchase the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

A statement on the committee’s website notes that the chairman of the committee, Alabama Republican Rep. Jo Bonner, and the ranking member, California Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, “have jointly decided to extend the matter.”

The probe into Jackson’s involvement was initially deferred due to a request by the Justice Department. That request was withdrawn after former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of corruption in June. (RELATED: Rep. Jackson: Obama should ‘declare a national emergency,’ add jobs with ‘extra-constitutional’ action)

Jackson testified at Blagojevich’s trial in May that he never authorized an associate to make a deal with the former governor in exchange for the Senate appointment.

An affidavit detailing the alleged crimes of Blagojevich describes how a designee of “Candidate 5” — later revealed to be Jackson — offered to gather $1,500,000 for Blagojevich in exchange for the seat.

In a clandestinely recorded Dec. 4, 2008 phone conversation, Blagojevich said that Jackson was being considered for the appointment because “we were approached ‘pay to play’” by a Jackson associate, who said that the congressman would “you know, he’d raise me 500 grand.”

Blagojevich said that the congressman’s representative had offered to have another fundraiser rake in an added $1 million. “An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a senator.”

In a second secretly recorded conversation on Dec. 4, Blagojevich said that “some of this stuffs gotta start happening now … right now.” The then-governor instructed the other caller to meet in person with one of Jackson’s associates. “I would do it in person. I would not do it on the phone,” he said.

On Dec. 8, 2008, one day before Blagojevich’s arrest, Jackson personally met with the governor about the Senate seat.

Former Illinois Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who intends to challenge Jackson in the Democratic primary in 2012, released a statement Tuesday afternoon, pointing to the development as “proof that he continues to be plagued with distractions over his possible role in Rod Blagojevich’s pay-to-play scandal.”

“We should have a representative that is focusing on job creation and economic development for our district — not on ethics investigations,” Halvorson said. Jackson has not yet issued a statement.

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