Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Tainted As Candidate #5 In Blagojevich Criminal Complaint

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. a young, rising star in Illinois and national politics, has aggressively denied any wrongdoing in light of reports that tainted him as “Candidate #5″ in the Blagojevich criminal complaint as the politico whose emissaries allegedly suggested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich might get something of value if he picked their man to fill out President Elect Barack Obama’s Senate term.

In the nature of new and old media in early 21st century America, the fact that Jackson’s name has surfaced in news reports will in effect make him guilty (but not in a court of law) until he proves himself innocent (in a court of law or due to definitive statements from law enforcement that he is not a suspect), even though no actual charges have been brought against him and there is no indication yet that they will.

But the allegation itself is not pretty and Jackson isn’t helped by the fact that it falls within the context of long-standing perceptions about how Illinois politics works — and a growing belief among many pundits that in the smelly world of Illinois politics, government wiretap tapes portray Blagojevich in a way that suggests the Governor far exceeded Illinois’ lowest stinky politics expectations.

Here’s Jackson defending himself today in what should be seen as an attempt to stave off what could be an at the very least temporary derailment of his fast-track political career:

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Jackson was responding to press reports such as this one from ABC’s Brian Ross:

Chicago Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., is the anonymous “Senate Candidate No. 5″ whose emissaries Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich reportedly offered up to $1 million to name him to the U.S. Senate, his attorney confirmed today after it was reported earlier on ABCNews.com “The Blotter”.

According to the FBI affidavit in the case, Blagojevich “stated he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Rod Blagojevich” with something “tangible up front.”

Jackson told ABC News this morning he was contacted Tuesday by federal prosecutors in Chicago whom he said “asked me to come in and share with them my insights and thoughts about the selection process.”

(Were these FBI agents…or diplomats?)

Jackson Jr.’s attorney James Montgomery confirmed that the Chicago congressman is “Senate Candidate #5″ but said “Jackson has never authorized anyone to seek the Governor’s support in return of money, fundraising or other things of value.”

And, indeed, that could be where Jackson’s role could fall. (1) Did Jackson emissaries really approach the man who is now the world’s most famous salesman? Needs to be confirmed. (2) If they did, were they doing it with his knowledge or behalf of others connected to his camp? (3) And what, specifically, did they offer and can allegations of any offer be confirmed?

Another story that probably prompted Jackson’s swift and emphatic response was this story that appeared in the Chicago Sun Times:

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is “Senate Candidate 5,” whom Gov. Blagojevich was considering appointing as Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate under the belief the governor would get at least $1 million in campaign contributions, his attorney said Wednesday

But Jackson never offered, nor authorized anyone to offer, money or favors in exchange for the seat, said his attorney James Montgomery. Jackson doesn’t know the identity of “Individual D,” the person purported to make the pay-to-play deal on Jackson’s behalf, he said.

“Congressman Jackson has never authorized anyone to seek the governor’s support in return of money, fund-raising or other things of value,” Montgomery said at the press conference. “Secondly, the congressman is not aware of any alleged associate having made such a proposal.”

He later added that “politicians and fund-raisers do some very strange things” and that he wouldn’t “put it past someone” to represent Jackson in shady dealings with Blagojevich without Jackson’s knowledge.

Jackson still wants the Senate seat, Montgomery said.

“He’s campaigned for it, he wants it,” he said. “He’s qualified for it.”

The bottom line: it’s now highly unlikely he will get the seat under these circumstances.

Even if there is not one iota of evidence to support the idea that anyone authorized by him put out feelers to in-effect buy the seat, a lack of evidence never halted late 20th century and early 21st century attack machine narratives before. In the end, the state of Illinois, state Democratic leaders, the Obama administration and national Democratic bigwigs will probably clamor behind the scenes for the appointment or special election of someone untainted by the Blagojevich scandal.

Jackson could well eventually wind up Senator from Illinois one day — but it’s highly unlikely it’ll be as the appointed or elected Obama replacement.

A FEW OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

Crooks and Liars:

Of course, not only is Blago clearly delusional (how else can you explain this kind of conduct when you’re under investigation by the feds?), he’s also clearly a liar of prodigious levels. So nothing he said should be taken at any kind of face value.

Nonetheless, the taint clearly threatened Jackson’s political future, and coming out — especially as convincingly as he did today — was an essential first step in repairing the damage

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--Blue Crab Boulevard:

There are an awful lot of strings to pull in this case. If the Feds unravel the entire twisted mess, it appears likely that more than a few names will be tarnished. Or people jailed.

The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room:

Though authorities wish to interview Jackson in connection with the case, Jackson said he has been told he is not a target of the investigation, ABC News reported today.

Senate Candidate 5 had an influential backer who approached Blagojevich about raising $1 million in exchange for seeing the candidate named to the seat. Jackson released a statement yesterday denying any connection to a quid pro quo deal and said he had hoped and pushed for an open and transparent process.

As we reported today, the FBI’s affidavit filed yesterday provides enough detail to guess at the identities of Senate Candidate 1, 2, 4 and 5. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) says she may be Senate Candidate 3, who was only mentioned offhand in the transcripts, while Senate Candidate 6 is a wealthy Illinois resident.

Blair Hull, the 2004 Senate candidate who lost to Obama in the primary, did not return calls yesterday inquiring as to whether he was Senate Candidate 6.

Wonkette:

According to the English Language, not much breathing room stands between between “an impossibility” and “an absolute certainty.” But in politics the impossible becomes possible and absolute certainties become $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ etc.

It’s good to know that America’s Illinois Politicians get along so well. You know, how Obama apparently dislikes his NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRMAN, Jesse Jackson Jr., so much that Jr. was forced to offer Blaggy a million dollars to ward off Obama’s influence. Or something. Rahm should just rat them all out, which he already did.

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