Former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill., has admitted to campaign finance violations in a plea deal with federal prosecutors, according to multiple news reports Friday.
Rumors of a plea deal have been swirling since shortly after Jackson was re-elected to his Chicago-area seat in November. He resigned soon after, citing ongoing health concerns. In the months leading up to the election, Jackson mysteriously disappeared from Washington, and his office refused to say where he was, only that he was being treated for a medical problem. Subsequently, his staff acknowledged he was being treated for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic.
Jackson is alleged to have used funds in his re-election account to purchase a $40,000 Rolex watch, furniture and travel expenses for a companion, among other personal expenses, according to news reports.
It is not yet clear whether the plea deal, which has not been announced publicly, will include any prison time.
The latter years of Jackson’s congressional career were marred by ethics allegations and scandal.
At the time of his resignation, the House Ethics Committee had an ongoing probe related to allegations that Jackson offered to raise money for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in exchange for being appointed to a vacant Senate seat. The independent Office of Congressional Ethics referred that matter to the committee in August 2009 but it was delayed while the Department of Justice prosecuted Blagojevich, who was found guilty of 17 of 20 corruption charges.
CQ Roll Call has in the past questioned expenses paid by Jackson’s re-election committee, reporting last year that it had covered $12,000 in travel expenses for Jackson and his wife to remain in Israel for an additional three nights after a weeklong excursion sponsored by a private interest group. Campaign finance law experts said at the time that lawmakers can use campaign funds for official officeholder expenses overseas, although without specifics it would be difficult to determine what trips might qualify.
Robin Kelly, who is running for Jackson’s seat in a special election, on Thursday aired the first television spot by a Democratic candidate. As the district is a safe Democratic seat, the Democratic nominee is expected to come to Congress.