Things are looking a lot worse for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) today.
The Chicago Tribune reports that businessmen with ties to both Jackson and Illinois’ Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund and then held a fund-raiser on the governor’s behalf in an effort to bolster Jackson’s chances for an appointment to President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal corruption charges for allegedly scheming to “sell” the appointment to Obama’s seat.
Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.
Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for the Senate.
Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.
That meeting led to a Blagojevich fundraiser Saturday in Elmhurst, co-sponsored by Nayak and attended by Jesse Jackson Jr.’s brother, Jonathan, as well as Blagojevich, according to several people who were there. Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side.
Blagojevich and the congressman met to discuss the Senate seat on Monday, one day before federal prosecutors arrested Blagojevich and charged him with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. As part of the charges, prosecutors alleged that Blagojevich was considering awarding the seat to a politician identified as “Senate Candidate 5″ because emissaries for that candidate were promising to raise as much as $1.5 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund.
The Tribune has identified Jesse Jackson Jr. as “Senate Candidate 5.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Jackson denied any wrongdoing and said he is not a target of the federal investigation into Blagojevich’s activities.
It is obviously too early to draw conclusions, but if the report is correct, it is very difficult to imagine a positive spin for Jackson. Perhaps it’s possible that the businessmen were freelancing, but that would seem to be extremely risky, for precisely this reason — if you get caught, it looks really bad for your favored candidate.
However, the report suggests that there is a lot more yet to be uncovered about the Blagojevich affair. It places Jackson a degree closer to this explosive scandal, and in politics, that’s never a good thing.
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