The House Ethics Commitee announced Tuesday that it will resume its investigation of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and the role he reportedly played in the appointment of a successor to Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
In September 2009, The Justice Department had requested the committee defer proceeding with the Jackson inquiry during the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich , since Jackson was one of the people on the prosecution's witness list. But now that the Blagojevich trial has concluded, with the former governor convicted on 17 counts, 11 of them related to selling Obama's seat in Congress, and Jackson has completed his testimony, the panel revealed it voted last week to resume the Jackson investigation.
The committee offered no specifics about the Jackson case this week, but the original investigation centered on whether Jackson violated the law by using public resources to promote himself to be appointed to succeed Obama in the Senate. The Justice Department has likewise declined public comment on the matter, and Jackson's office confirmed to The Ticket Wednesday the congressman and his staff are not issuing comment.
Jackson and his supporters likely hope the matter will be quickly resolved. The congressman faces a strong primary challenge in his newly drawn 2nd District from former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who seized on the ethics news in a statement reported Wednesday:
The House Ethics Committee's decision to look into possible ethics violations by Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. is proof that he continues to be plagued with distractions over his possible role in Rod Blagojevich's pay-to-play scandal involving President Obama's former Senate seat. We should have a Representative that is focusing on job creation and economic development for our district-- not on ethics investigations.
The Ethics Committee is notorious for drawing out its proceedings-- major complaint from lawmakers such as Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters who said the committee's failure to act swiftly sapped their resources and unfairly delayed their opportunities to defend themselves.
[You can read more about flaws in the House ethics process here.]
The committee said Tuesday that it plans to announce a "course of action" in the Jackson matter on or before Dec. 2, and issued a disclaimer saying that the act of resuming the case is not by itself an indicator of guilt or innocence.
"The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee," the statement read.
Jackson has previously and repeatedly stated his innocence in the scandal surrounding the effort to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat. "I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics, and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing," he said during a Dec. 2008 press conference.
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