With her surprise resignation from the Chicago City Council on Friday, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s wife Sandi has made the political dynasty’s self-destruction complete. Mrs. Jackson follows in the footsteps of her husband, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. who resigned from the US House in November. While nothing has been confirmed by authorities, local media outlets have been reporting for 3 years that the Jacksons are under investigation by the FBI.
Jesse Jackson Jr. was once thought to be a rising star in Chicago and national politics. He was also considered to be the only potential candidate who polled high enough to possibly beat Mayor Richard Daley for the city’s highest office. Some even believe Jackson’s threat to the Chicago Democratic Machine’s leadership and his criminal investigation are linked. It’s probably no coincidence that the only two politicians to ever poll higher than Mayor Daley in head-to-head polling both had their political careers destroyed by federal authorities, thus removing any possible challenge to the city’s entrenched establishment. In addition to Jesse Jr., the other threat took the form of City Treasurer Miriam Santos, who was subsequently sentenced to 40 months in federal prison in 1999.
Lead-up to resignation
The Jackson family’s fall from political grace, believe it or not, can be traced all the way back to President Obama. When the then US Senator resigned his seat to take the office of the Presidency, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had the authority to appoint Obama’s replacement. Already spying on the Governor for other alleged criminal activities, federal authorities were in the right place when former Rep. Jackson’s people called.
As reported by numerous Chicago media outlets, Jesse Jackson Jr. is the unnamed elected official documented in police transcripts attempting to buy the vacant US Senate seat for $1 million. Once snagged in the FBI’s web, the federal investigation then spread to include the rest of Jackson’s family. The more authorities dug, the more they reportedly found. Jesse Jr. had been spending money, possibly campaign money, on a mistress in Washington. The couple had also allegedly used campaign finances to remodel their home. Probably most blatant of all, Sandi Jackson, while a sitting Chicago Alderwoman, was also on her husband’s campaign payroll.
Just last month and only days after her husband resigned from Congress, with the federal investigation apparently spreading to include herself, Sandi Jackson ominously amended her financial disclosure reports going back to 2009. Accounting for previously missing money in her husband’s campaign fund, Sandi inexplicably took responsibility for it and changed her filings to show monthly transfers of $1,250 from Jesse Jr.’s campaign fund to herself. No information was included detailing what the payments were supposedly for.
Already, Sandi Jackson’s campaign filings show vast amounts of money from her husband’s campaign funds being transferred to her. As far back as 2006, Jesse Jr.’s federal fund began transferring money to Sandi’s. In all, Sandi Jackson’s two political accounts have received over $280,000 just from her husband’s federal campaign account.
With Sandi’s surprise resignation two days ago, Chicago media outlets are reporting that the move was in preparation for a final plea bargain by her husband over federal charges of illegal use of campaign funds. It’s thought that showing officials that both of the husband and wife pair have lost their jobs, their incomes, their livelihoods and credibility, they’ve suffered enough and shouldn’t be sentenced to any jail time. Thought less likely is the suspicion that the federal investigation has grown to include Sandi Jackson as well and she’s attempting to legalize all the financial transactions she can before authorities charge her with the same crime her husband is reportedly facing right now.
Sandi Jackson’s resignation from the City Council will take effect January 15. In her letter of resignation to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she wrote, ‘I am unapologetically a wife and a mother and I cannot deny my commitment to those most important personal responsibilities. To that end, after much consideration and while dealing with very painful family health matters I have met with my family and determined that the constituents of the 7th Ward, as well as you Mr. Mayor, and all my colleagues in the City Council deserve a partner who can commit all their energies to the business of the people.’
It’s no secret that while they were members of Chicago’s Democratic Machine, the Jackson’s were never a part of the notorious Daley Machine. Now however, with the responsibility of hand-picking Sandi Jackson’s 7th Ward replacement falling to Mayor Emanuel, he can appoint a solid ally, increasing his power over the Chicago City Council even more.
Before the Jacksons, the Beavers family controlled the elective offices of this south shore neighborhood. Sandi Jackson beat Darcel Beavers for the Aldermanic seat of her father, William Beavers, who rose up to Cook County Commissioner. Last year however, William Beavers was indicted for illegal use of campaign funds, allegedly embezzling more than $225,000 from his political campaign fund and using it for personal expenses.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has 60 days to appoint a replacement for Sandi Jackson on the Chicago City Council. Observers believe he will avoid both the Jackson and Beavers families and pick an Alderman who has local community ties, but isn’t beholden to any other political powerhouses that would give Emanuel competition for the new Alderman’s loyalties.
Showing just how important the appointment of a Chicago Alderman is, former Mayor Richard Daley used the tactic to create a ‘rubber stamp’ City Council. When he retired as Mayor, Daley had hand-picked and appointed 35 of Chicago’s current 50 City Councilmen, including former 7th Ward Councilwoman Darcel Beavers who ended up losing her first election to Sandi Jackson in 2007.
Since both of the community’s political families are tarnished by criminal indictments and corruption, that leaves the door wide open for a fresh face and a political newcomer. At the top of the list is Lionell Martin, a lifelong 7th Ward resident who ran unsuccessfully against Sandi Jackson and Darcel Beavers for Alderman in 2011.
A graduate from local Senn High School in 1989, as well as graduate of Southern Illinois University, Martin also served in the US Navy. He compliments that service saying, “As a military veteran, I learned the values of both effective leadership and strict discipline.” The local neighborhood resident also has deep connections to the community. Martin worked for the city’s office of Special Events where he helped coordinate Chicago’s many neighborhood and city-wide festivals.
He has since gone to work for the Department of Homeland Security where he serves as Regional Chairman of the Catastrophic Planning Team for the City of Chicago. And while it seems the pickings are slim in the 7th Ward for Sandi Jackson’s replacement, Lionell Martin stands out as a possible choice for Mayor Emanuel. Martin brings a lifetime of community involvement, as well as the credibility and experience to carry out the responsibilities of the office. More than anything however, Lionell Martin would bring a military discipline and code of honor capable of standing up to the corruption that has plagued this south shore community for decades.
Mayor Emanuel has until March 15 to appoint a replacement for 7th Ward Alderwoman Sandi Jackson.
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