Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service
REP. JACKSON: Well, the next time I introduce legislation, I hope all of you show up.
I was shocked and saddened to learn that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested yesterday by federal law enforcement officials. The details of corruption charges were staggering and stunning. If these allegations are proved true, I'm appalled by the pay-to-play schemes hatched at the highest levels of Illinois state government.
I think that I can speak for all Illinois residents when I express outrage at the thought that Illinois' now vacant Senate seat may have been put up for sale, offered to the highest bidder.
Sadly, yesterday's criminal complaint casts another dark cloud over a state already beleaguered by corruption and scandal. Clearly, the people of Illinois deserve better. They deserve to have their trust and their confidence in government restored.
In light of yesterday's criminal indictment, I believe that the governor, in the best interests of our state, should resign and forfeit his authority to make the Senate appointment. The fact is, anyone appointed by the governor at this point would be too severely tainted to serve the state effectively and without suspicion in the United States Senate.
Meanwhile, the governor's fate is in the hands of the justice system. We must allow that process to run its course. As it does, I want to address rumors and reports about me and my involvement in this process. I want to make this fact plain. I reject and denounce pay- to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing.
I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case or to propose a deal about a U.S. Senate seat, period.
I thought, mistakenly, that the process was fair, aboveboard and on the merits. I thought, mistakenly, that the governor was evaluating me and other Senate hopefuls based upon our credentials and qualifications.
Of those members of the United States Congress who have been mentioned as potential senators from Illinois, I have served longer than every one of them, except for Congressman Luis Gutierrez. I have more seniority. In the 13 years that I've served in the Congress of the United States, I've only missed two votes, and there's no Democrat and no Republican in the Congress of the United States who can say that.
I thought, mistakenly, that the governor was going to make a decision in the best interests of our state as well as our nation. I thought, mistakenly, that the governor was considering me based on my 13 years of hard work on behalf of the people of our state as well as our nation. I thought, mistakenly, I had a chance, and I was being considered because I had earned it.
Clearly, I was badly mistaken. I did not know that the process had been corrupted. I did not know that credentials, that qualifications, that a record of service meant nothing to the governor. I did not know that the governor and his cronies were attempting to use the process to extort money and favors in a brazen pay-to-play scheme.
I wanted to be considered for the appointment because I believed in public service. I believe that Illinois deserves another senator serving along Senator -- alongside Senator Dick Durbin who shares the values and will work to fix our economy, make our nation more energy- independent, provide health care for all Americans and provide our children with a world-class education -- the values of the president- elect.
That's what I shared with Governor Blagojevich on Monday, when I had the opportunity to meet with him for the first time in four years. I want to repeat that. I met with Governor Blagojevich for the first time in four years on Tuesday (sic). I presented my record, my qualifications and my vision. The media saw me enter the governor's office, and after a 90-minute meeting about my record, my qualifications, the media saw me exit Governor Blagojevich's office. Despite what -- what -- what -- despite what he may have been looking for, that's all I had to offer, and that's what we discussed.
To the people of Illinois, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve you. I want to thank the thousands and thousands of people who supported me for the Senate, writing letters, making phone calls, sending e-mails and circulating petitions.
I want to thank the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Defender, the SouthtownStar, Indigo Magazine, the Kankakee City News for their editorial endorsements.
I want to thank the business, labor, clergy, civic and community leaders, and the thousands of honest, hardworking Illinois citizens who supported me. We did it right. They did it right. We pressed to make what would have been a private process a public process, that their voices might be heard.
Know this: I spoke to the U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday. They shared with me that I am not -- I am not a target of this investigation, and that I am not accused of any misconduct.
In the days ahead, federal law enforcement officials want to meet and discuss what I know about the Senate selection process. I look forward to cooperating with the hardworking men and women of the United States Attorney's Office and the Justice Department. I look forward to sitting down with them and cooperating fully and completely under this federal investigation.
I have retained the advice of legal counsel, Mr. James Montgomery, Sr., who held his own press conference earlier this afternoon in Chicago. On his advice, and due to the ongoing investigation, I will not be taking any questions, but I do want to add one point before I leave.
This morning I got a text message from my little sister, who told me that she was proud -- she was proud of what I've done for this nation. In the 14 years that I've nearly served in this Congress, I've tried to honor this institution, and I've tried to honor public service because I believe that it is a noble profession, that it is a profession that requires the highest possible sacrifice.
It is public service, but it is private sacrifice.
And so this morning she told me, "Jesse Jr., I'm proud of you." That came from my little sister.
And I've felt that kind of pride over the last two and a half years in our state. And I know this a low moment for the people of our state. But watching the president-elect carry himself in such an extraordinary way across this country, to build bridges that had never been built in this country, even I have become inspired.
And so somewhere along the way, over the last two-and-a-half years, I got the idea that if a "skinny kid with a funny name" could be president of the United States, that a short kid with a somewhat controversial but certainly a high-profile name could be a senator from Illinois. I entered this process with that expectation, and I hope that the people of the state of Illinois and the people of our country will measure me based upon the content of my character.
Thank you very much for having me. (Cross talk.)
Q Were you ever told or led to believe that you were going to get the job? Did anybody tell you or lead you to believe you were going to be appointed? (Cross talk.) Are you Senate Candidate Number 5? (No audible reply.)