U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. owes his loyal constituents something he hasn’t offered them lately: Honesty.
Speculation over Jackson’s health, the investigation involving alleged campaign finance misconduct and his whereabouts has reached a fever pitch in Chicago and even Jackson’s most steadfast admirers are demanding that the clandestine congressman explain his mysterious five-month absence from Capitol Hill.
With his political career spiraling out of control, Jackson, 47, skipped his session in Congress this week and many of his colleagues say they never expect to see Jackson serving as a congressman on Capitol Hill again.
And there is also deep-rooted anger.
“To slap us in the face now, you just lied to us,” Chicago Alderwoman Carrie Austin told reporters Thursday. “You just lied to us. I feel so betrayed.”
Austin’s fury toward Jackson comes as a Fox television affiliate in Chicago reported that Jackson is willing to give up his congressional seat if he also receives a disability package when he steps down. The disability allocation might be his only source of income, according to the report.
There’s no doubt that Jackson’s career as a U.S. congressman is coming to an unceremonious end soon but regardless of how this saga concludes, Jackson should speak candidly to the thousands of black voters who have supported him tirelessly through the years.
Jackson’s black constituents have been extremely patient and they have lots of legitimate questions.
Did Jackson violate campaign finance laws? Was he hiding out at the Mayo Clinic to avoid prosecution? Was he negotiating a plea deal with federal agents before he was re-elected to Congress last week?
And here’s another question that calls for an immediate answer: Where is Jackson now?
“Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is no longer a patient at Mayo Clinic,” the clinic said in a statement. “He departed Tuesday, Nov. 13. Although he is no longer a current patient, he continues to cope with bipolar II disorder and will remain under the care of physicians as part of his ongoing treatment to manage and treat depression.”
Jackson’s disappearance from Congress has certainly raised more questions than answers. The Justice Department is investigating Jackson over alleged misuse of campaign funds – and the probe has broadened to include his wife, Chicago Alderwoman Sandi Jackson.
Prosecutors are investigating Rep. Jackson’s alleged use of $20,000 in campaign money to redecorate the family’s $2.5 million Washington, D.C. home. He is also suspected of using campaign funds to buy a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend.
The whole mess is troubling.
If Jackson was working a deal with prosecutors during his re-election race, then he kept his constituents even deeper in the dark.
“I think Congressman Jackson, it’s incumbent upon him to have a conversation with his constituents about his intentions,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters.
This is a shameful scenario that has engulfed a prominent and seemingly politically savvy family. In fact, a friend who spent a significant part of his journalism career in Chicago told me that the Jacksons are one of the most politically astute families in America and experts in crisis management .
If this is true, why would Jackson Jr. spend $40,000 on a Rolex for another woman knowing that a huge expenditure of that kind would be easily traceable – especially if he used campaign funds to buy the watch?
Meanwhile, some of Chicago’s black politicians say they feel sympathy for Sandi Jackson – but are slamming her husband.
“In every marriage somewhere down the line, you think that your husband might fool around on you, but not necessarily commit adultery,” Alderwoman Austin told reporters. “Being a high-profile person, how constrained could he be? But, to have it all now slammed in her face. That has got to be so humiliating, it’s like, I don’t want to get out of bed.”
So what now for Jackson?
He won re-election by a landslide, but Jackson probably won’t serve another day in Congress again. His dreams of running for mayor of Chicago – and even President – are long gone and at this point, just staying out of jail might be the ultimate goal.
“Given the election is over, I think it’s important for him to tell his constituents and tell the public where he stands,” Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said this week. “It’s time for him to speak.”
Jackson should come clean today. His constituents deserve better.