Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL) allegedly directed one of his major campaign contributors to give Gov. Rod Blagojevich millions of dollars in campaign contributions in return for appointing Jackson to the then-empty Senate seat of President Barack Obama. Jackson also allegedly directed the same contributor to buy plane tickets to Chicago for a “social acquaintance” of Jackson’s who is a former model now working as a hostess at a D.C. restaurant.
Jackson allegedly directed Raghuveer Nayak, a businessman and major fundraiser, to purchase two plane tickets from Washington to Chicago for Giovana Huidobro, a hostess at Ozio restaurant in D.C., the paper reported. Huidobro was interviewed by the FBI as part of the Blagojevich investigation about a year ago regarding a dinner with the congressman and the businessman at the restaurant on Oct. 8, 2008, according to the Chicago Sun Times. In a March 2009 FBI interview as part of the Blagojevich investigation, Jackson described Huidobro as a “social acquaintance,” sources told the newspaper.
Jackson has not been charged in connection with the investigation of Blagojevich, and publicly said that he was cooperating. A congressional investigation into Jackson was suspended in mid-2009 because it would potentially interfere with a “pending criminal proceedings and ongoing investigation,” said the newspaper. Both the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office have declined to comment on the current status of the Jackson inquiry, said the paper.
On Tuesday, Jackson said he is “deeply sorry” for his actions, acknowledging having “disappointed some supporters” regarding his relationship with the woman.
Jackson did not address the allegation about the payments for plane tickets, which could raise ethical questions under the U.S. House of Representatives’ gift ban act, the newspaper reported. Such an inquiry is not likely to proceed until the Blagojevich case was closed.
Jackson also allegedly directed that Nayak offer former governor Rod Blagojevich $6 million in campaign cash in exchange for him appointing Jackson to the Senate, the Chicago Sun Times reported. Sources told the paper that Nayak had told the FBI about both incidents. Jackson denied he tried to raise money for Blagojevich.
“The very idea of raising millions of dollars for a campaign other than my own is preposterous,” Jackson said in a statement. “My interest in the Senate seat was based on years of public service, which I am proud of, not some improper scheme with anyone.”
Prosecutors said last month that they will not retry Rod’s brother Robert Blagojevich in the scandal. The former governor was found guilty of one count of lying to the FBI, but he is appealing. Prosecutors said they planned to retry Rod Blagojevich on the more serious charges.