Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Right Way to Buy a U.S. Senate Seat

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There’s a right way to buy a U.S. Senate seat, and a wrong way to buy a U.S. Senate seat.

    Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin did it the right way. Kohl, whose family owns the department store chain, is worth an estimated $279 million. In 1985, he bought the Milwaukee Bucks. Three years later, he decided to add a Senate seat to his portfolio. As a wealthy heir, he was able to self-fund his campaign and refuse money from special interests. Because of that, he told voters in an ad, he could be “Nobody’s Senator But Yours.” (If you’ve never heard of Kohl, it’s because he’s spent the last 24 years not doing much in the Senate.)

    Rep. Jesse Jackson is accused of doing it the wrong way. Jackson didn’t inherit a family fortune. He did inherit a famous name that helped him win election to Congress in a South Side district, but would have been a liability in a statewide race. His best shot at moving up to the Senate was to get appointed to a seat, then prove himself to the voters.    

    The House Ethics Committee announced today it will continue its investigation of whether Jackson offered to raise $1.5 million for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for his appointment to the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

    According to a committee report:

    “There is probable cause to believe that Representative Jackson either (1) directed a third-party, most likely Mr. Raghuveer Nayak, to offer to raise money for Governor Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Representative Jackson to the Senate seat, or (2) had knowledge that Nayak would likely make such an offer once Representative Jackson authorized him to advocate on his behalf with Governor Blagojevich.”

    If Jackson is expelled from his House seat, or ends up losing it to former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who is challenging him in the Democratic primary, that will make two political careers that ended because of the non-sale of a Senate seat. Jackson never raised any money for Blagojevich, and was never appointed.

    The lesson: unless you’re independently wealthy, don’t ever try to buy a Senate seat.

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!