WASHINGTON (AP) — The Ethics Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives said Tuesday it would move ahead with an investigation into whether Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. tried to buy the Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama became president.
The committee’s Republican chairman, Rep. Jo Bonner, and its ranking Democrat, Rep. Linda Sanchez, said the panel voted last Thursday to end its temporary deferral of the case that the Justice Department had requested. The department has withdrawn the request.
Jackson has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with wrongdoing. The case was deferred in September 2009.
The congressman, who represents Illinois, Obama’s state, in Congress. Jackson is the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights advocate who was a close associate of the assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While the future course of the investigation is not clear, the committee has looked at whether Jackson, or someone acting on his behalf, offered to raise money for then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for an appointment to Obama’s vacated Senate seat.
The committee previously revealed that the investigation included allegations that Jackson improperly used his staff in Washington and Chicago to mount a public campaign to secure the seat.
Jackson is in his ninth term in the House. He was elected in 2010 with 81 percent of the vote in his district.
Blagojevich, who won two terms as Illinois governor, was convicted last June of a wide range of corruption charges, including trying to sell the Senate seat.
Jackson has acknowledged he was “Senate Candidate A” in the Blagojevich criminal complaint, one of several candidates whom authorities say the former governor considered for the seat.
The congressman’s chief of staff, Rick Bryant, said the office had no comment on Tuesday’s announcement. Jackson’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Kim Nerheim, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, would not comment whether the Justice Department has closed its probe of Jackson.
The committee statement said the extension “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee.”
The statement said the committee would announce its course of action by Dec. 2.
According to the criminal complaint, Jackson’s supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for Blagojevich if he would choose the congressman.
Jackson said in September 2009: “As I’ve said from the beginning, I have done nothing wrong, nor have I been accused of doing anything wrong. Everyone knew that I was interested in the Senate appointment. I was deeply honored and humbled to receive the support of public officials, organizations and citizens from across the state. My efforts and actions were all public, ethical and legal.”
Jackson’s alleged use of staff was in a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which reviews potential ethical violations by House members and staff and refers cases to the ethics committee of five Democrats and five Republicans.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.