Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigns from US Congress amid scandal
CHICAGO – Embattled Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been under a cloud of suspicion since he disappeared from Congress to go on medical leave in June resigned from his post Wednesday.
Michael Steel, a representative from House Speaker John Boehner’s office told theGrio “We received the letter,” but didn’t give any details on why Jackson said he is resigning.This resignation comes just weeks after Jackson Jr. reclaimed his seat in a landslide, grabbing 63 percent of votes cast during the 2012 election—no surprise in the heavily Democratic 2ndCongressional District he’s served for about 18 years.
Local reports said Jackson Jr. notified supporters, staff and some lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, “citing health reasons.”
“My health issues and treatment regimen have become incompatible with service in the House of Representatives. Therefore, it is with great regret that I hereby resign … effective today, in order to focus on restoring my health,” Jackson Jr. wrote in a two-page letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
Addressing an FBI probe, Jackson in the letter admitted to “my share of mistakes,” saying: “I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone.”
In early June, Jackson Jr. took a medical leave of absence and had reportedly been receiving treatment for depression and gastrointestinal issues at the Rochester, Minnesota-based hospital, until his release in early September. Between early September and late October, Jackson Jr. was convalescing in his Washington D. C. home where he saw doctors twice a day. He returned to the Mayo Clinic at that time to undergo more tests, his father, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, told theGrio.
Jackson Jr. left the Mayo Clinic last week, a spokesman from the hospital said. CBS Chicago reported that Jackson Jr. was in an undisclosed location with a relative, but neither in Chicago nor Washington.
Over the last few weeks, Illinois politicos have been calling for Jackson to make a statement to constituents, updating them on his status and whether or not he plans on returning to office.
Jackson Jr. is reportedly working on a plea deal with federal prosecutors who are investigating him for possible misuse of campaign funds. Washington lawyers and top criminal defense attorney Dan Webb, who struck a plea deal for the late Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski in the 1980s, is negotiating a plea bargain for Jackson Jr. that may be reached by the end of the year.
Some jail time is expected for the Illinois Congressman. As of mid-November, the tentative deal includes Jackson Jr.’s resignation for health reasons, a “guilty” plea to the charge that he misused campaign funds and repayment of funds used for his personal use, CBS News said.
Webb is also negotiating Jackson Jr.’s pension, “which would pay out between $65,000 and $80,000 a year when he turns 62,” according to the report.
Jackson Jr.’s medical leave had been riddled with much investigation. He is still being investigated by the FBI on charges that he used campaign funds to redecorate his Washington, D.C. home. The Sun-Times reported in early November that Jackson may have also used campaign funds to buy a $40,000 Rolex for a female friend. A House Ethics Committee continues to look into Jackson’s supposed involvement in trying to be appointed to now-President Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
According to reports, Jackson Jr. was talked out of resigning from his seat before election, but part of the reason why he reconsidered was so he wouldn’t lose his federal health insurance when he needed it most.
Calls to Jackson Jr.’s Washington D.C. and Chicago area offices were not immediately returned.
Gov. Pat Quinn has five days to announce a date for a special election to replace Jackson Jr. The election must occur within 115 days of the resignation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time,” Gov. Pat Quinn posted on his twitter account Wednesday afternoon. “I will set forth a schedule for a special election for the 2nd Dist. US Rep seat, to be carried out fairly and economically, within five days.”
In a news release to media, postal worker Marcus Lewis, who recently ran against Jackson as an independent candidate, announced he would vie for the seat again. “I am going to run in April 2013 to stop the trickery and give you the representation you deserve,” Lewis said late Wednesday. “I ran because I am fed up with the lies, the outright deceit and the cockiness we have put up with for decades.”
Republican contender Woodworth could not be reached for comment.
Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.