There are many questions and a lot of speculation about Rep Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., these days concerning his whereabouts, and whether he will resign or continue to hold his congressional seat. There is also speculation about a House Ethics Committee investigation into his alleged misuse of campaign funds that has now expanded to include his wife, Sandi.
Jackson, 47, who won re-election on Nov. 6, checked himself out of the Mayo Clinic on Nov. 13 and hasn’t been seen publicly since. He’s been on medical leave since June, allegedly for bipolar disorder and other health issues, but in the interim, there’s been no word about if he is going to return to work.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, among others, have both said Jackson needs to show his face, and at least explain to the people who re-elected him what’s going on.
“It has reached that point, and I have tried to be sympathetic and understanding - because I believe that mental illness is in fact an illness," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. in an interview with WDWS 1400, a Champaign, Ill. radio station. “It can be treated and should be taken seriously, and I stand behind those who are struggling with it, but there are so many issues that are emerging here and he is a public figure, and there reaches a point where he has to square what is being said about him with the reality of his life and he has to step up and say more.”
Jackson’s latest departure from the public forum follows the continuing House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that he used campaign finances to remodel his home and purchase a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend. There are also questions into his reported dealings with deposed and imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. His leave of absence coincided with that investigation. According to reports, the House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Jackson and his associates discussed raising money for Blagojevich in exchange for the then-governor appointing Jackson to President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich is now imprisoned on charges that he tried to sell the position.
It has also been reported that Jackson is negotiating a guilty plea deal with the United States Department of Justice over the allegations that he funneled campaign funds for personal use.
Jackson, who was re-elected to the House of Representatives despite his legal problems and health issues, could face jail time if there is sufficient evidence against him.
"My deep and sincere thanks to the people of the 2nd Congressional District, I am humbled and moved by the support shown today," Jackson said in a prepared statement following his re-election. "Every day, I think about your needs and concerns. Once the doctors approve my return to work, I will continue to be the progressive fighter you have known for years. My family and I are grateful for your many heartfelt prayers and kind thoughts. I continue to feel better every day and look forward to serving you."
The son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson took medical leave around the same time that a colleague, Raghuveer Nayak, was arrested on 17 counts of fraud. Nayak testified during the trial for Blagojevich that he was authorized by Jackson to offer the governor as much as $6 million for the Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. Jackson denied the allegations.
“I’ve committed and participated in no such scheme. It’s been a thorough investigation. And I think the investigation has revealed that,” Jackson said in a published report. He was never charged in the case although a House Ethics Committee continues to investigate.