Jesse Jackson Jr. Pleads Guilty to $750K in Campaign Fund Thefts

Jesse Jackson Jr.The elder Jesse Jackson has grown wealthy these past couple decades mainly by shaking down corporations. One of his sons, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. (see photo), has preferred a different path to wealth: his campaign till. That path is now leading to federal prison. On Wednesday, February 20, the younger Jackson, who served nine terms in Congress before resigning last November 21, pleaded guilty in District of Columbia federal court to diverting about $750,000 in re-election funds to personal use. Jackson, who since last June has been hospitalized twice at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder and other problems, told U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins that in pleading guilty to wire and mail fraud, he had “no interest in wasting the taxpayers’ time or money.” His wife, Sandi, until recently a Chicago city alderwoman, hours later pled guilty to a related tax fraud charge. 

In a …

Blagojevich Conviction Only Partly Reveals Culture of Corruption

Blagojevich photoLast August, things looked sunny for former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. He and his lawyers had just obtained a hung jury on 23 of 24 corruption charges. But Justice Department prosecutors, confident they had their man, continued to pursue the case – and this time with different results. Last Monday, June 27, a Chicago federal jury, after nine days of deliberation, found the man known as “Blago” guilty on 17 of 20 charges, nearly a dozen of them related to his attempts during the fall of 2008 to fill the pending Senate vacancy left by President-Elect Barack Obama in return for campaign cash. Blagojevich’s play-for-pay schemes got him arrested that December and removed from office a month later. While the case highlights corruption in Chicago, its real significance may lie in shedding more light on the political networks making possible Obama’s rise. 

Even before Inauguration Day, Rod Blagojevich …

Jesse Jackson Jr. Denies Role in $6M Scheme to Bankroll Blagojevich

Jesse Jackson, Jr. photoRep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., like his famous father, has become a Democratic Party kingmaker, both in Chicago and on Capitol Hill. He's also, according to the September 21 Chicago Sun-Times, the mastermind behind a scheme to raise $6 million in campaign contributions for then-Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for a U.S. Senate appointment. The allegation, made by a Chicago-area businessman-fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, contradicts Jackson's assertions that he hadn't tried to buy Barack Obama's pending vacant Senate seat in the weeks prior to Election Day 2008. The actual version of events may well determine whether federal prosecutors can secure multiple guilty verdicts against Blagojevich, convicted in August on only one of 24 corruption charges (lying to federal agents), with the other 23 resulting in a hung jury.  

National Legal and Policy Center has extensively detailed how Blagojevich was at the center of a patronage machine whose …

Political Pressure Saved ShoreBank Management

Geithner photoAmong other things, it looks like the Chicago lobbying to save ShoreBank paid off. Earlier this month I discovered a letter sent by Windy City power player and big Democrat donor Lester McKeever, Jr., to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, which urged his intervention. “It is my hope,” McKeever wrote, “and one shared by others who care deeply about its most vulnerable communities, that the ShoreBank recapitalization plan with investment coming from the U.S. Treasury will enable it to continue servicing its customers and fulfilling its mission.”

In a post today on ShoreBank’s blog, online channel manager (whatever that is) Sarah Ewing welcomes customers to the renamed institution, Urban Partnership Bank, that survived thanks to the FDIC lopping off ShoreBank’s bad assets. Reading like a press release, Ewing explains how UPB will continue the same services that ShoreBank used to deliver, under the leadership of chairman David Vitale, who …

Can Chicago Lobbying Save ShoreBank?

Shorebank logoProbably not. Seems like the more that presidentially-prized ShoreBank gets extensions from private financial institutions (Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, etc.) and from its federal regulators (the FDIC and Federal Reserve), the deeper in the hole it finds itself. Earlier this week the Chicago Tribune reported:

ShoreBank’s capital deficiency worsened in the second quarter, according to newly submitted financial results to regulators, and the Chicago-based lender now needs to raise at least $190 million just to meet targets set out in March by state and U.S. banking regulators….


The South Side bank has arranged a capital infusion of about $150 million from Wall Street investment firms, big banks, insurance companies and philanthropic groups. It’s hoping that private investment will then make it eligible for about $75 million in bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Concerns have been raised about whether $225 million will be enough

Blagojevich Trial Puts Obama Closer to Senate Seat Deal

Obama/BlagojevichFrom a public relations standpoint, getting forced out of the Illinois governor’s mansion a year and a half ago was a smart career move for Rod Blagojevich. He’s been all over the TV since, doing stints on such shows as “Celebrity Apprentice” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” But publicity may not be enough to keep him or several of his former allies out of prison. His long-awaited trial on fraud and conspiracy charges related to his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s pending Senate vacancy to the highest bidder began on June 8, the result of a five-year Justice Department probe into corruption in Chicago politics. Prosecutors wrapped up their case just before 5 P.M. Tuesday.  Evidence introduced thus far confirms widespread suspicions that former Gov. Blagojevich and his benefactors were part of a larger Chicago-Obama White House conduit. 

Since his December 9, 2008 arrest Blagojevich has proclaimed his innocence. …

Blagojevich Aide Harris Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Testify

John HarrisIf former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich thought his problems were behind him, the worst lies ahead. Late in January the state legislature voted to impeach and expel him from office. But it’s not just his job but also his freedom that may be lost, thanks to pending testimony from his former chief of staff, John Harris. Harris yesterday pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge. And whatever details he spills in court aren’t likely to make the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) look much better than Blagojevich. Nor are they likely to enhance the reputation of President Barack Obama.

Harris, now 47, served as Blagojevich’s chief of staff until seven months ago. Last December 9, FBI agents busted the pair for conspiring to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by then-President-Elect Obama to the highest bidder. Harris resigned from office. Knowing they had a ready-made star witness, the feds pressed for a …