Meet “Person F.”
In the real world, Person F has a real name, a real job, a real life. But in court papers filed over the past week, detailing the charges against former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Person F is simply Person F.
Here’s what we know about Person F. Person F has owned an Alabama-based business. And, in April 2011, Person F, at the direction of Jackson, wrote a check for $25,000 to pay down the balance on a credit card belonging to Jackson and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson.
When the charges against Jackson Jr. were revealed last week, they detailed the misuse of around $750,000 in campaign funds, allegations which media reports had been anticipating for months. But the court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. also described a transaction unlike most of the others. The incident involving Person F hadn’t been previously leaked out to reporters, and it did not, apparently, involve campaign funds. (Court papers also described a 2009 transaction, for $3,500, in which a “Person E,” identified as the owner of an Illinois-based consulting firm, cut a check to a credit card company to pay down one of the Jacksons’ personal credit cards.)
Prosecutors have not alleged anything nefarious about the $25,000 payment. Instead, Jackson was hit for leaving the payment out of a financial disclosure statement filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives in May 2012. (Likewise with the payment from Person E.)
So what was going on with the $25,000? Court documents don’t say. Professor Steven Duke, who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure at Yale Law School, told TPM that the payment alone was not a crime.
“That, by itself, is not a crime, since the credit card balance could have been incurred to benefit [P]erson F and the check could have been to reduce a legitimate debt,” Duke wrote in an email. “I emphasize ‘could have been.’”
The situation would have been different if Jackson had taken an official act in exchange for the money, Duke wrote. But nothing in the court documents indicates that was the case.
Jackson’s attorneys did not return a message seeking comment.
It is common practice for court documents to withhold the identity of individuals not being charged with crimes. But, ironically, the fact that information should have been publicly disclosed has not resulted in the information being made public now. And it does not appear that will change.
“As far as I know, there’s no requirement that an ex-member go back and re-file their financial disclosures and disclose additional money, gifts, whatever,” Bill Allison, the editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for government transparency, told TPM in an interview.
Congressmen who leave office do, however, have to file what’s called a “termination report” with the House clerk within 30 days of leaving office. According to the House Ethics Committee, termination reports are supposed to cover “all financial activity through the person’s last day on the payroll.” Jackson resigned from Congress on Nov. 21, but his termination report has yet to be uploaded to the House clerk’s online financial disclosure report database. (TPM has reached out to the House clerk’s office, to confirm whether Jackson has yet to file his termination report.)
So have we heard the last of Person F? Perhaps not. In a news conference on Wednesday, following the guilty pleas of both Jackson Jr. and Sandi Jackson, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. suggested that the case was still open.
“The most culpable participants in this scheme have pled guilty today,” Machen said. “All I will say is we’re still assessing everything right now. I don’t think we’ve made final decisions about what may or may not happen with respect to other individuals.”
A reporter asked Machen point blank if he could talk about the “motivations” of Person F and Person E.
“I don’t want to speak to that, at this time,” Machen responded.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com