House Ethics Committee Investigates Jesse Jackson Jr.

Ethics complaints against members of the House of Representatives must pass through the Office of Congressional Ethics first.  They are an “independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct,” established in 2008 to examine evidence confidentially, until they’re ready to issue a public report.  The House Ethics Committee can then decide if the complaint merits further action.

The OCE has just released a report on Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), and as the Chicago Tribune reports, the House Ethics Committee has decided his situation is serious enough to be investigated further:

The House Ethics Committee announced today it will continue to investigate whether U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. or an emissary directed or knew of efforts to raise campaign cash for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for Jackson’s appointment to the Senate in 2008.

In making the announcement, the panel released findings from an initial review by another office that found “probable cause” Jackson either directed someone to offer to raise funds in exchange for the seat or knew such an offer would likely be made. Jackson was never named to the Senate.

Jackson, 46, a Chicago Democrat, has been under scrutiny after his allies reportedly offered at least $1.5 million in campaign cash to Blagojevich for the appointment.

The ethics panel also has been examining whether Jackson misused federal dollars allocated for personnel and office expenses by utilizing “staff resources” to mount a “public campaign” to secure the appointment.

As the report explains, the Office of Congressional Ethics can’t take the investigation any further, since Blagojevich and his key fundraisers “have declined to cooperate with the OCE investigation, and because the OCE cannot compel their cooperation, the OCE is unable to determine whether there is a substantial reason to believe these allegations.”  It will be up to the House Ethics Committee to get compulsive with these folks.

Jackson denies wrongdoing, and promises to “continue to fully cooperate” with the House Ethics Committee.  He said he’s grateful that the relevant documentation will be released so “my side of the story will be made public.”  If that story doesn’t pass muster with the House Ethics Committee, he could ultimately be subjected to anything from a Strongly Worded Letter to censure and expulsion.

Jackson is facing a primary challenge from former Representative Debbie Halvorson, who has not been shy about mentioning his ethical problems on the campaign trail, as Fox News in Chicago reported early last month:

The woman who vows to unseat Jesse Jackson Junior told FOX Chicago News the South Side congressman is so damaged by scandal not even a Presidential endorsement could save him.

Former Representative Debbie Halvorson (D-Illinois) was reacting to our Tuesday night report. A source close to the President’s re-election campaign told us President Obama would support Jackson in the March 20th primary.

Halvorson declared, “People are sick and tired of his ethics problems, the fact that he’s never around, that he hasn’t done anything. The people of the Second Congressional District need somebody who can walk and chew gum at the same time, somebody who can actually do several things at once and work to bring jobs and economic development to each individual town in the district.”

Strangely enough, while there are many news reports that Obama has promised to endorse Jackson, I can’t find any official announcements that he has actually done it.  A recent poll from November 21st shows Jackson leading Halvorson, 39% to 22%, but that leaves a lot of voters undecided, and 39% support is pretty weak for a big-name incumbent.  The same poll says Obama still has 82% approval in the district, so his endorsement would seem helpful.