In what's being touted by Republicans as an example of liberal-left and Democratic Party hypocrisy, the son of civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson, Jesse, Jr., is facing federal jail time for turning his campaign war chest into a private slush fund for him and his wife, according to the Department of Justice on Friday.
Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., and his spouse Sandra, agreed to enter guilty pleas to felony charges stemming from Jackson's use of more than three-quarters of a million dollars in campaign funds for non-campaign items including celebrity memorabilia, a $50,000 wristwatch, and furs for Mrs. Jackson.
"Here we have a perfect example of hypocrisy in Washington: a liberal-left congressman who is on record complaining about businessmen who live lavish lifestyles and who 'don't pay their fair share.' It turns out that Mr. Fair Share is using campaign funds -- donated by voters who put their trust in him -- to put on the 'Ritz,'" said Michael Baker, a conservative political strategist and attorney.
According to the Justice Department, prosecutors charged both Jackson and his wife with conspiracy and with filing false federal income tax returns in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Prosecutors said that both individuals knowingly understated their personal income.
Jackson and his wife face a maximum penalty of eleven years in prison. The former congressman may also be ordered by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and plus forfeiture of the items purchased with campaign funds, according to Gerald Spence, a federal investigator.
Jesse Jackson, Jr., was a Democrat who entered the U.S. Congress in 1995 but resigned in disgrace last November. Sandra Jackson, also a Democrat, served as an alderman in their hometown of Chicago. She was forced to resign last in January due the DOJ investigation.
Due to his position on the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Jackson secured over $800 million in federal funding for health care, education, transit, housing, community centers and other projects in Chicago. He also strongly supported recent legislation for health care (Obamacare) and financial regulations, according to his campaign staff.
The memorabilia bought with illegal funds included an Eddie Van Halen guitar, a Michael Jackson brimmed hat, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X memorabilia, Bruce Lee memorabilia and Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.
According the court documents, Jackson and his wife carried out the scheme by using credit cards issued to Jackson's re-election campaigns to pay personal credit card bills for $582,772.58 in purchases by Jackson. Jackson provided his wife and a long-time campaign treasurer $112,150.39, solely for having the two carry out transactions that personally benefited Jackson.
In recent months, Jackson was reportedly treated twice at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for bipolar disorder.
His father, Jesse Jackson, Sr., has not commented on his son's plea agreement or the allegations made regarding the misuse of campaign funds.