Jackson Denies Wrongdoing In Blagojevich Case
A lawyer for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. confirmed Wednesday that the Illinois Democrat is the "Candidate 5" referred to in court documents underpinning the public corruption charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama called on Blagojevich to resign, even as the embattled governor went to work a day after being named in the federal complaint.
Jackson and his attorney, James D. Montgomery Sr., denied that Jackson — son of the famed civil rights leader — was involved in anything untoward. Montgomery specifically said Jackson was not involved in a scheme to pay Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Obama.
"I reject and denounce 'pay to play' politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing," said Jackson at a news conference in Washington, D.C. "I thought, mistakenly, that I had a chance and was being considered because I had earned it."
Jackson said he never sent a message or emissary to Blagojevich indicating that he would be willing to pay for the post, saying he met with the governor this week for the first time in four years. Jackson has not been charged with a crime, and he maintained he is not a target of the investigation.
"Candidate 5" was mentioned in an affidavit by FBI agent Daniel Cain that supported the government's request for a search warrant application. In it, Cain recounted conversations intercepted in government wiretaps in which Blagojevich said associates of the Senate hopeful were willing to raise $1 million in exchange for the post.
Cain stated in the affidavit, "In a recorded conversation on Oct. 31, 2008, Rod Blagojevich described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: 'we were approached pay to play. That, you know, he'd raise me $500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise $1 million, if I made him (senate Candidate 5) a senator.'"
Obama Presses Blagojevich To Quit
On Wednesday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president-elect believes it would be difficult for Blagojevich to continue as the state's chief executive amid allegations that the governor tried to use his position for financial gain.
"The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. [Pat] Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois," Gibbs said.
Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called a "political corruption crime spree." Fitzgerald said the governor participated in a number of pay-to-play schemes, including efforts to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama for cash, campaign contributions, a Cabinet post or an ambassadorship.
Illinois law allows the governor to fill Obama's seat, but Senate Democrats warned Blagojevich not to name a replacement.
"No appointment by this governor, under these circumstances, could produce a credible replacement," U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Tuesday after the governor, a second-term Democrat, was arrested on charges of conspiring to commit fraud and soliciting bribery.
Blagojevich has denied charges of wrongdoing and left his Chicago home for work early Wednesday. The governor's attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said Tuesday he knew of no plans for Blagojevich to resign.
Blagojevich aide John Harris was also named in the federal complaint. Harris was accused of being part of the governor's schemes.
The two are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. They are also charged with pressuring the Tribune Co. to fire several members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board in exchange for state assistance in the purchase of Wrigley Field. The Tribune Co. owns Wrigley Field and was attempting to negotiate the sale of the historic Chicago ballpark to the Illinois Finance Authority.
From NPR staff and wire reports
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