Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

February 21, 2013

Chicago district disappointed in ex-congressman


Jackson first won office in a 1995 special election and developed widespread support from mayors who said he delivered and constituents who valued his family legacy and said he gave them a voice. That support persevered even through an intense primary challenge last year from former one-term U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson who made Jackson's ethical troubles central to her campaign. He came away with the easy majority even as he remained under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to Blagojevich, who's serving a federal prison sentence on allegations that he tried to profit from President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate Seat.

Even the most loyal Jackson supporters who praised him for bringing home nearly $1 billion in federal funding to the district were rattled.

"I hate that circumstances ended up like they did," said Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin. His small community south of Chicago — one of Illinois' poorest — got a boost in its water system because of Jackson.

Still, Griffin did not want to pile on criticism. "His situation is between the court system and the family," the mayor said.

Next week, voters in the heavily Democratic district head to the polls in a special primary to replace him. The crowded field of candidates includes Halvorson, former state Rep. Robin Kelly and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale.

Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced June 28 and his wife on July 1. Both Jacksons, who maintain homes in Washington and Chicago, are free until sentencing.

More details emerged in a 22-page statement compiled by prosecutors and filed Wednesday. In it, Jackson admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy thousands of personal items worth $582,772.58 from 2005 through April of last year. The most lavish purchases included the spending of more than $43,000 on a gold-plated men's Rolex watch.

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