The House Ethics Committee Friday kept the heat on Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. They released a report that said Jackson used taxpayer resources in his bid to win a U.S. Senate seat, and they said their investigation of Jackson will continue.
Jackson declined to be interviewed, but issued a written statement denying any wrongdoing.
Still, it was a major blow to Jackson’s campaign to win renomination in the Democratic primary scheduled for March, 2012. Former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson has announced that she will challenge Jackson.
Halvorson shot back that Jackson's too beset by scandal to do his job.
"Here we go again,” former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson said. “We've got a congressman who's nowhere to be found. And now he's got more distractions."
As a result of census-based remapping, Jackson’s Second Congressional District now stretches from his home in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood all the way to Kankakee County.
The Aug. 6, 2009 report by investigators from the Office of Congressional Ethics concluded that Jackson used tax-paid staff in Washington and Chicago in his campaign to win appointment to President Obama’s former Senate seat. The report declared, “Representative Jackson may have violated federal law and House rules concerning the proper use of the Member's Representational Allowance.”
The report concluded,
"There is probable cause to believe that Rep. Jackson either (1) directed a third-party to raise money for Gov. Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Rep. Jackson to (President Obama's former) senate seat, or (2) had knowledge that...(an ally) would likely make such an offer… Jackson and his staff (used) staff resources both in Washington and Chicago...to mount a 'public campaign' to secure (his) appointment to the senate."
The Ethics Committee also released a 17-page letter from Jackson’s lawyers, Reid H. Weingarten and Brian M. Heberlig. It offered a detailed response to the allegations against Jackson. Referring to congressional staffers who allegedly helped Jackson’s campaign for the senate seat, the letter said any “violations were inadvertent.” It added that staffers who worked on Jackson’s campaign did so largely “on their own time, on top of – not at the expense of – the many hours they devoted to fulfilling their regular duties.”
FOX Chicago News was first to report President Obama's promise to endorse Jackson in the Democratic primary next March. The President, though, has not yet spoken publicly about Jackson.
The Ethics Committee decision to continue its investigation may cause further delay.
Jackson released a statement in response to the continuation of the investigation saying he was grateful his side of the story will be made public.
“The Ethics Committee will continue their legal responsibility and I will continue to fully cooperate with them. At the end of the process I still believe I will be vindicated,” Jackson Jr. said. “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. 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.”
Sen. Dick Durbin said today he would not follow the President's lead in the battle between Jackson and challenger Halvorson.
“Oh, I'm not going to make an endorsement in that race,” Durbin said. “I think you can understand that I try to be very careful in making these endorsements. I have, but on a limited basis.”
Another indicator of how wounded Jackson may now be is that FOX Chicago News has learned that at least one prominent South Side alderman is taking a close look at the contest and may jump in as an independent candidate.