Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. hosted a highly dramatic press conference Wednesday in which he leveled harsh criticisms at Rod Blagojevich and denied any involvement in the governor’s “pay-to-play” scheme to fill Barack Obama’s open Senate seat.
“I reject and denounce pay to play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing,” said the congressman. “I did not initiate or authorize anyone, at any time, to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, or plea my case, or to propose a deal about a US Senate seat. Period.”
The remarks came hours after news reports fingered Jackson Jr. as Candidate #5 in the Justice Department’s complaint on the Blagojevich affair. Said candidate stands accused of seeking to send $500,000 or $1 million to the governor in an effort to win appointment to that seat. Jackson, who said he had met the governor for the first time in four years this past Monday, denied that he was “a target of this investigation.” I am not, he added, “accused of any misconduct.”
The language was at times emphatic, with Jackson Jr. getting emotional when talking about a text message he had received from his younger sister, telling him to continue his good work. But looking with a legal eye at the words, there is some noticeable wiggle room. Not being a “target” of an investigation is different than not being a “subject in” an investigation.
Also of note: Jackson Jr. did not do anything to tamp down his public hopes of being appointed Senator. At one point he touted his resume for the post, saying he was one of the most senior officials rumored to take Obama’s seat and had only missed two votes in 13 years in Congress. There is, he added, “no Democrat or Republican who can say that.”
The majority of the press conference (there was no question or answer session) focused on disappointment with Blagojevich — who the entire Democratic Party is running from in sprint-mode speed.
“I thought, mistakenly, that the process was fair, above board and on the merits. I thought, mistakenly, that the governor was evaluating me and other Senate hopefuls based upon on our credentials and qualifications,” Jackson Jr. said. “I thought, mistakenly, that I had a chance and I was being considered because I had earned it. Clearly I was badly mistaken. I did not know the process had been corrupted. I did not know that credentials, qualifications, or a record of service meant nothing to the governor. I did not know that the governor and his cronies were attempting to use the process to extort money in a brazen pay-to-play scheme.”