U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., whose efforts to secure President Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate are being scrutinized in a congressional inquiry, said Wednesday he is cooperating in the federal investigation.
“As I said when the [Rod] Blagojevich scandal first broke back in December, I have done nothing wrong and reject pay-to-play politics,” Jackson said. “I’m confident that this new ethics office -- which I voted in favor of creating -- will be able to conduct a fair and expeditious review and dismiss this matter."
An independent panel that reviews possible ethical lapses by members of the House of Representatives has launched a preliminary review of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s efforts to be appointed to the U.S. Senate by ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to the Sun-Times.
The Office of Congressional Ethics voted in late March for the review, the Sun-Times reported on its Web site, citing documents released to parties involved in the inquiry.
The committee has asked for documents, e-mails and other correspondence from Blagojevich's gubernatorial and campaign staff regarding Jackson, Jackson's brother Jonathan and his campaign staff, the Sun-Times reported, citing lawyers close to the probe. It requested information from June through December 2008.
The panel reportedly began its work last Thursday, the same day a federal grand jury indicted Blagojevich on corruption charges that, among other things, he schemed to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Blagojevich denies wrongdoing.
“I am cooperating fully with the preliminary review being conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE),” Jackson said in a statement released by his office. “I was notified last week about the inquiry and am eager to answer any questions and provide any information to the OCE about my actions related to last year’s vacant Senate seat.”
Reporters (and six camera crews) waiting outside Jackson's South Side home Wednesday morning saw no sign of Jackson. A car that pulled into the family's driveway at about 7:30 a.m. is thought to have taken the congressman's two children to school. At 10:30 a.m., it appeared that Jackson was still in his house.
The son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson Jr. has acknowledged he was "Senate Candidate A" in the Blagojevich criminal complaint, one of several candidates that authorities say the former governor considered for the seat now held by Roland Burris. Jackson's supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for Blagojevich if he picked the congressman, the complaint said.
Jackson is not charged with wrongdoing.
Leo Wise, who heads the Office of Congressional Ethics, told the AP he could "not confirm or deny that we are reviewing the materials" the Sun-Times referred to.
Reached at his home in suburban Maryland, Wise said the office has not released any documents concerning an investigation of Jackson.
The Office of Congressional Ethics reviews cases and refers them to the House ethics committee. It takes two members of the office, one from each party, to initiate a preliminary investigation of a member. Three board members must vote to move to a second phase review.
There is no public disclosure if the panel dismisses a case. Authority to make recommendations of censure or punishment still rests with the ethics committee, which is made up of House members.