An ethics panel said Friday that it would continue to investigate allegations that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. or a person acting on his behalf offered to raise cash for disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama's Senate seat.
The House Ethics Committee also issued a lengthy August 2009 report from the Office of Congressional Ethics that said there was probable cause to believe that Jackson or an associate offered Blagojevich campaign money for the appointment to the empty Senate seat.
The report also alleged that Jackson broke federal law and House rules by using his staff in Washington and Chicago to mount a public campaign to secure the appointment in 2008.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, was removed from office following his arrest and indictment on corruption charges for trying to sell off Obama's vacated Senate seat. Jackson, a fellow Democrat, is considered to be Senate Candidate 5 in taped conversations between Blagojevich and an advisor that appeared in the FBI's affidavit.
Jackson Jr. Says Efforts Were Transparent and Lawful
Jackson, son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, said in a statement that his efforts to be appointed senator were transparent and lawful.
I have said from the beginning that I publicly and transparently sought to have the Governor of Illinois appoint me to fulfill the final two years of then-Senator Barack Obama's term in the U.S. Senate, he said, according to The Associated Press. I did nothing illegal, unethical or inappropriate in that pursuit and I believe that is what the Ethics Committee will conclude at the end of this process.
The ethics office's report said that Jackson's offer to raise campaign cash for the governor's reelection bid was likely made through an individual named Raghuveer Nayak, though the office was unable to confirm. Nayak is described in the report as a major fundraiser for Democrats.
Jackson told the office that he had sought help for the appointment from anyone and everyone including Nayak. He also said that Blagojevich told him that political contributions would be a factor in deciding his pick for the Senate.
Jackson told the ethics office he experienced Blagojevich's alleged penchant for exchanging favors for cash. Blagojevich allegedly told the Congressman that his wife lost out on a post in the governor's administration because Jackson refused to make a $25,000 campaign contribution in 2002.
The ethics report comes as Jackson faces a tough primary challenge from former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who was swept up in the Republican wave during the 2010 midterm elections.