Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Arrested For Public Corruption
By Gerri Elder
In early December, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. was one of the many people interested in taking over President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Publicly, Jackson seemed confident that it was his time.
On Dec. 8, Jackson met with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for 90 minutes, according to a report by The Washington Post. There was speculation that the meeting was intended to seal the deal. Blagojevich had the sole authority to choose who took Obama’s place in the Senate.
However, less than 24 hours after the meeting between Jackson and Blagojevich, FBI agents arrested Blagojevich on public corruption charges. His arrest put Jackson on unsteady ground and Jackson’s self-confidence was replaced with self-preservation.
Realizing that his chance at the Senate seat was likely gone and his political career may be in jeopardy, Jackson hired a lawyer and called a news conference to assert his innocence. During the news conference, Jackson said he had “no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing.”
In the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, Jackson was identified as “Senate Candidate 5.” The FBI affidavit describes secretly taped conversations in which the governor said an “emissary” from “Senate Candidate 5″ had offered at least $500,000 in campaign contributions in order to gain the Senate seat.
The 76-page affidavit filed in support of felony charges against Blagojevich indicates that the governor appeared to believe that people who are loyal to Jackson would be willing to raise as much as $1.5 million for him if Jackson was chosen to fill Obama’s Senate seat.
As FBI agents listened, on Dec. 4 Blagojevich said that a representative for Jackson approached him with a “pay-to-play” deal. The governor said that he was told that if Senate Candidate 5 were chosen, the representative would raise $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund in addition to $500,000 that would be raised by Jackson.
There has been no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by Jackson. The U.S. attorney’s office has informed him that he is not a target of the investigation. Jackson has agreed to fully cooperate in the corruption investigation against Blagojevich.
On Dec. 12, The Chicago Tribune reported that businessmen in favor of Jackson’s appointment to the Senate had discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign.
Raghuveer Nayak, a significant contributor to Blagojevich’s campaign, and Blagojevich aide, Rajinder Bedi, reportedly started telling people about the fundraising idea on Oct. 31 at a meeting that Blagojevich attended. The meeting led to a fundraising event on Dec. 6, just two days before the governor met with Jackson. Nayak sponsored the fundraiser and Blagojevich and Jackson’s brother Jonathan Jackson attended.
On the night of Dec. 16, the case against Blagojevich took another strange turn. CNN reported that Jackson served as an informant in past federal investigations of Blagojevich, but he was not an informant in connection with the current criminal charges against the governor. CNN cited two unnamed people close to Jackson as saying that he served as an informant for more than a decade and provided federal investigators with information about Blagojevich since 2006.