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February 20, 2013

Former US Congressman Pleads Guilty to Misspending Campaign Money

by Jeffrey Young

Former U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. appeared in federal court in Washington Wednesday on charges that he converted a sizeable amount of his campaign funds to personal use.  Jackson, the son of famed civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson, was accompanied by his wife who also had to answer charges in the same case.  VOA’s Jeffrey Young has details.

The former Chicago-area congressman walked into federal court Wednesday and pled guilty to criminal charges of misusing $750,000 dollars in campaign funds.

Jackson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2102, entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy and filing false federal tax returns.  

His wife has agreed to plead guilty to the same tax charge.

Prosecutors say Jackson used the campaign funds to buy a Rolex watch, furniture, and a large collection of memorabilia from notables including Martin Luther King, Jr and action movie star Bruce Lee.

His wife Sandra is accused of using the campaign funds to buy furs and other clothing.

After Jackson’s court appearance, his attorney, Reid Weingarten said the former congressman has acknowledged his corrupt behavior

“Jesse needed to come to terms with his misconduct. And, those who were in court saw that he did precisely that. He had to come to terms for conduct that people who care about him find very hard to understand,” Weingarten said.

Prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence for Jackson of 46 to 57 months.  

He will also forfeit $750,000 to reflect the campaign funds taken, and will also hand over a sizeable portion of his memorabilia collection. Formal sentencing will take place on June 28.

Once a rising star in the Democratic party, Jackson’s misuse of publicly collected campaign funds clearly fits the classic definition of corruption, according to Georgetown University public policy professor Mark Rom:

“The key thing is - does the transaction produce harm to the public interest? Does that transaction involve a misuse of power, of public authority, for private gain? That’s what makes it a corrupt act,” Rom said.

Jackson has also reportedly suffered from mental health problems. He was on medical leave from Congress from June of 2012 through the November election, after which he resigned his seat for personal reasons.