Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jesse Jackson Jr. Talked with Feds
About Blagojevich Since Summer

Don Babwin

CHICAGO — Shortly after his 2002 election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich told Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. he didn't appoint the congressman's wife as lottery director because he had refused him a $25,000 campaign donation, a person familiar with the conversation told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Blagojevich went out of his way to say, 'You know I was considering your wife for the lottery job and the $25,000 you didn't give me? That's why she's not getting the job,'" the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing federal investigation.

Jackson's name has played prominently ever since Blagojevich was arrested last week on corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for personal gain.

Jackson has been identified as one of the candidates Blagojevich was considering for the seat, and a criminal complaint said his supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for the governor if he picked the congressman.

The complaint quotes Blagojevich as saying on federal wiretaps that an associate of the candidate offered to raise money for him if he made the Jackson appointment happen.

Jackson spokesman Kenneth Edmonds declined to comment on the account of the exchange shortly after Blagojevich's 2002 election but said the congressman, the son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, has approached federal investigators to discuss the governor and others for years.

"He has shared information with federal prosecutors about public corruption during the past several years, including information about Blagojevich and others," Edmonds said.

Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, declined to comment, as did Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero.

Jackson has openly sought the Senate position but denies initiating or authorizing anyone to promise anything to Blagojevich on his behalf. The congressman has said federal prosecutors told him he is not a target of their investigation.

B4B NOTE: We received the following message from the Jesse Jackson Jr. camp:

"As a responsible citizen and elected official, Congressman Jackson
has in the past provided information to federal authorities regarding
his personal knowdedge of perceived corruption and governmental
misconduct.This was completely unrelated to the current federal
investigation regarding the U.S. Senate appointment. And it is
absolutely inaccurate to describe the Congressman as an informant."

Kenneth Edmonds, spokesman for Congressman Jackson.