September 19, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
"Wednesday's child is full of woe . . .
Thursday's child has far to go . . ."
Old nursery rhyme
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was born on a Thursday, but these days he could claim to be Wednesday's child and who'd argue?
He's having a terrible year.
The latest installment came, appropriately, on Wednesday when the House ethics committee announced it's postponing its investigation into allegations surrounding Jackson. At issue is whether he or an emissary attempted to buy an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama in exchange for $1.5 million in campaign contributions to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The committee said it was delaying its own probe at the request of the feds -- never a good sign -- who plan to put Blagojevich on trial next June.
Jackson, in the Blagojevich indictment, is listed as Senate Candidate No. 5. According to the complaint, he met with the governor just one day before the FBI yanked Blago out of bed at dawn and put him in handcuffs.
Moreover, the ethics committee revealed a new dimension to its investigation, saying it had been looking into whether Jackson's staff in Washington and Chicago was improperly used in campaigning for the appointment.
Though Jackson staff members, according to a source, have been questioned by the committee, some campaign legal experts argue that without an election at stake, proving a technical violation on this score might be tricky.
The South Side congressman, for his part, isn't answering questions about it. The normally talkative/texting Jackson issued a written statement this week reiterat- ing previous written statements: "As I've said from the beginning, I have done nothing wrong, nor have I been accused of doing anything wrong. . . . I will continue to cooperate fully with the ongoing probe . . . My efforts and actions were all public, ethical and legal."
Of all the candidates mentioned as possible successors to Obama, Jackson arguably was one of those who had earned the slot. At 45, he works hard in Congress, ferociously represents his city and suburban constituents (60 percent African American, 40 percent white), and has handily won eight terms.
His first victory came in 1995 as his predecessor, the disgraced Rep. Mel Reynolds, was heading toward prison. In 14 years, Jackson has built a sophisticated political machine and vanquished some of his fiercest -- and most venal -- enemies, including the infamous Shaw brothers of suburban Dolton, bouncing Bob Shaw from the county's Board of Review and Bill Shaw from the state Senate. He also toppled the Beavers family's control of the 7th Ward, with wife Sandi Jackson defeating Darcel Beavers for alderman and her dad, William Beavers, for ward committeeman.
It hasn't helped Jesse Jackson Jr. to have a controversial, polarizing father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose enemies can't see the son in separation.
And it certainly hasn't helped that the congressman decided to put his wife on his political payroll to the tune of $247,500 since 2001. Or that his political fund dropped $300,000 worth of in-kind contributions into her political fund. It's legal but it isn't smart.
And now that Ald. Jackson has told ward committeemen that she's almost certainly running for lieutenant governor in 2010, she raises not only her profile but her husband's when it comes to those payments; the long-distance operation of her aldermanic office from their home in Washington, and the upcoming Blagojevich trial, which will crash directly into next campaign season.
Jackson Jr. has long felt underestimated and disrespected by the regular Democratic political establishment. Often, he has been.
But how he handles this next year will be every bit as important as whatever ultimate vindication he insists will come his way.
As any Thursday's child ought to know, there's far to go.