U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.has been named as a key figure in the federal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The alleged scheme by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to trade a U.S. Senate post and other favors for personal gain includes an alphabet soup of unidentified participants, none of whom are charged with wrongdoing.
However, the person referred to in the federal criminal complaint against Blagojevich as "Candidate #5" is Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., according to a law enforcement official and Jackson's own attorney.
Jackson is considered a candidate to replace Obama in the Senate, and met with the governor about the job the day before his arrest.
Speaking at an afternoon news conference, Jackson Jr. said he was "outraged" at the thought that the state's Senate seat may have been put up to the highest bidder.
"I have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Gov. Blagojevich on my behalf," Jackson Jr. said. "I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case or to propose a deal for the U.S. Senate seat, period."
Jackson Jr. added that his meeting on Monday with the governor about the Senate seat was the first time he had a meeting with Blagojevich in four years. Jackson Jr. said he presented his qualifications during the 90-minute meeting, and did not discuss any kind of pay-to-play deal.
He also confirmed that he has been contacted by federal investigators about the case and plans to meet with them and cooperate fully.
Jackson Jr.'s attorney, James Montgomery, held a news conference of his own in Chicago Wednesday afternoon. He said "you may be assured Jesse Jr. has done no wrongdoing."
In two other interesting developments Wednesday, NBC Chicago learned that Jackson Jr. was given a phone call from the U.S. Attorney's Office the night before the governor was taken into custody, advising him that the arrest was imminent. Also, the congressman's father, Jesse Jackson Sr., has retained legal council following the Blagojevich arrest.
And late Wednesday, one of Jackson Jr.'s colleagues in the House, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, issued a statement endorsing Jackson to fill the Senate seat.
“I think Congressman Jackson was very forthright (today)," Rush said "I’ve known him since he was a toddler. I’m very proud of his accomplishments and achievements in the U. S. House of Representatives, and I think that he’s a man of quality."
Federal officials caution that they have no evidence, other than statements made by Blagojevich, about whether Candidate 5 actually made any improper approaches to the governor. No conversations with Candidate 5 were ever picked up on any of the bugs or wiretaps.
Jackson's office put out a brief statement, quoting him as follows: "Since the federal investigation of the governor is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment beyond my initial statement. However, I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I won't hesitate to cooperate fully and completely with the federal government's investigation."
According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 31 Blagojevich was overheard saying of Candidate 5, "We were approached 'pay to play,' that, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him a senator."
But federal officials say the recordings did not pick up any conversations with Candidate 5 or the emissary. It's important to note that this is a third-hand statement: Blagojevich (1) is repeating what he says was the emissary's (2) description of what Candidate 5 (3) said.
Nonetheless, investigators are reaching out to all the figures mentioned in the criminal complaint, including Candidate 5, to learn more about what happened.
Among the other mystery individuals named in the federal complaint are:
Individual A: Participated in numerous conversations with Blagojevich and others involving the subjects that are part of the charges against Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris. Individual A is cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago in hopes of getting immunity from prosecution.
Fundraiser A: Identified in the document as chairman of Friends of Blagojevich, who, according to campaign finance records, is Rob Blagojevich, the governor's brother. Individual A said the campaign was seeking to raise $2.5 million by the end of the year, when a tougher campaign fundraising law takes effect.
Senate Candidate 1: An adviser to president-elect Barack Obama whom Blagojevich thought was Obama's choice to replace him in the U.S. Senate, a description consistent with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Blagojevich talked about getting a cabinet position or ambassadorship in exchange for naming this person to the post. Jarrett took herself out of the running in mid-November.
Among the other mystery individuals named in the federal complaint are: Participated in numerous conversations with Blagojevich and others involving the subjects that are part of the charges against Blagojevich and his chief of staff, . Individual A is cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office in in hopes of getting immunity from prosecution. Identified in the document as chairman of Friends of Blagojevich, who, according to campaign finance records, is , the governor's brother. Individual A said the campaign was seeking to raise $2.5 million by the end of the year, when a tougher campaign fundraising law takes effect. An adviser to president-elect whom Blagojevich thought was Obama's choice to replace him in the U.S. Senate, a description consistent with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Blagojevich talked about getting a cabinet position or ambassadorship in exchange for naming this person to the post. Jarrett took herself out of the running in mid-November.
Adviser B: A Washington, D.C. consultant to whom Blagojevich said he wanted something in return for appointing Senate Candidate 1 because, "I want to make money."
SEIU Official: Affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, was told Blagojevich wanted to take a high-paying position with "Change to Win," a group representing seven unions and get Obama's help on the group's national legislative agenda in exchange for appointing Senate Candidate 1.
Deputy Governor A: A top aide to Blagojevich who confirmed in a Nov. 12 conversation with the governor that $8 million in assistance for Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago could be withheld because of "budgetary concerns" if Children's CEO did not contribute $50,000 to Blagojevich's campaign.
Senate Candidate 2: Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has feuded with Blagojevich. Blagojevich told his spokesman on Nov. 6 to anonymously tell a Chicago columnist that Blagojevich was considering naming her to the post "to send a message" to Obama's people. A Nov. 7 column mentioned Madigan.
Senate Candidate 4: Also a deputy governor to Blagojevich whom the governor considers naming to the post as someone who would be willing to give up the seat to Blagojevich if he were impeached as governor.
Tribune Financial Adviser: Believed to be a top assistant to the Chicago Tribune's owner, whom Harris approached regarding state assistance for selling the Tribune-owned Wrigley Field. Blagojevich wanted the adviser's assistance in firing unfriendly editorial writers in exchange for state help.
Sports consultant: President of a Chicago-area sports consulting firm, who suggested in a conversation with Blagojevich that he was working on the Wrigley deal. Blagojevich told the consultant he could use science or technology money without the Legislature's approval on the Wrigley deal and suggested the consultant come up with ideas.