Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Says He’s Not a Target of Blagojevich Investigation
December 10, 2008Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Wednesday he openly sought appointment to Barack Obama's Senate seat but denied offering favors in return to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and said he was not involved "whatsoever in any wrongdoing."
A lawyer for Jackson acknowledged that the Illinois Democrat is "Senate Candidate 5" in the 76-page federal complaint filed against Blagojevich, who was arrested Tuesday. Wiretapped conversations suggest Blagojevich felt the candidate would raise campaign money for him in exchange for being appointed to the Senate seat vacated by the president-elect.
Jackson, a seven-term House member and son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, told reporters in Washington that he spoke with the U.S. attorney's office Tuesday.
"They shared with me that I am not a target of the investigation and that I am not accused of any misconduct," said Jackson, who left the crowded session without taking questions.
The U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment.
Blagojevich, a second-term Democrat, is accused of scheming to enrich himself by selling Obama's open seat for cash or a lucrative job for himself or his wife. The federal complaint says that in a wiretapped conversation on Oct. 31, Blagojevich described an approach "by an associate of Senate Candidate 5."
The governor was quoted as saying that an associate of Candidate 5 approached him with a "pay to play" proposition, a term for a payment in exchange for a political favor. "That, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand" for future political campaigns, the governor said in the wiretapped conversation.
Jackson said Wednesday: "I did not initiate nor authorize anyone, at any time, to promise anything to Gov. Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer or to propose a deal about the U.S. Senate seat."
He said he would fully cooperate with the investigation.
Jackson's Chicago-based lawyer, James D. Montgomery Sr., said, "Politicians and fundraisers do some very strange things from time to time. I wouldn't put it past someone to be purporting to represent Jesse without authority."
Jackson said he met with Blagojevich on Monday in Chicago for 90 minutes to discuss the Senate vacancy. It was their first meeting in about four years, he said.
"I presented my record, my qualifications and my vision," Jackson said. "Despite what he may have been looking for, that's all I had to offer."
Associated Press writer Adam Goldman in Chicago contributed to this report.
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