Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s Ailments 'More Serious' Than First Believed
Rep, Jesse Jackson, Jr., son of the civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, is more seriously ill than first believed, according to his communications director.
Jackson Communications Director Frank Watkins said in a written statement that the nine-term Illinois Democrat "is undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient medical facility." and "will need to receive extended in-patient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter."
Watkins declined a CNN request to elaborate on the specific nature of Jackson's ailment.
"Congressman Jackson's medical condition is more serious than we thought and initially believed. Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time," Watkins wrote. "We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period."
Jackson, 47, has been on leave since June 10. At that time, Watkins said the lawmaker was being treated for exhaustion, and requested that the family's privacy be respected. Jackson's office will remain open for constituent services, the statement noted.
Jackson, the son of famed civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, represents the Illinois' Second Congressional District. The district includes parts of Chicago's South Side and the Cook County suburbs.
In March, Jackson decisively won a heated primary despite being the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. The ethics panel has been examining allegations Jackson or one of his associates offered to raise funds for disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Jackson testified at the Blagojevich corruption trial that he wanted the Senate seat but denied knowledge that any of his cronies helped raise cash for Blago's re-election campaign in exchange for the seat.
The congressman's mysterious illness and leave of absence were announced on June 26th. At that time, Jackson's statement said he had begun the leave of absence on June 10.
But on June 20th, a key fundraiser for Jackson and Blagojevich was arrested for bribing doctors to send patients to his surgery centers. Raghuveer Nayak, who admitted to raising money for Blagojevich in order to win Jackson the Senate seat, was charged with "mail fraud, interstate travel in aid of racketeering and filing false income tax returns in a 19-count indictment, according to the U.S. attorney's office."
In 2009, the House Ethics Committee released a report on Jackson that said there was "probable cause" to believe Jackson directed or knew that his friend Nayak would try to trade cash for the Senate pick. The Chicago Tribune is reporting:
The Tribune first reported on Dec. 12, 2008, that Nayak and Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees at an on Oct. 31, 2008, luncheon meeting attended by Blagojevich that the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for Senate.
Nayak has told federal investigators that Jackson asked him to raise campaign money for Blagojevich in hopes that the then-governor would appoint Jackson to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, sources familiar with the investigation have told the Tribune.
In 2008, the Tribune reported that Nayak and a fellow Indian-American businessman had agreed to help Jackson's chances of replacing Obama by raising as much as $1.5 million for Blagojevich. Nayak was never charged in that investigation nor was he called to testify at Blagojevich's two trials.
Is it simply a coincidence that Nayak's indictment came so close to the announcement of Jackson's leave of absence? What might be the connection, if any, between the two events?
The Trib doesn't believe that there is any chance Jackson will be indicted for a "pay to play" crime connected with efforts to secure the Senate seat. That may be. But you wonder if the House Ethics Committee is interested in talking to Nayak and if Jackson was finding the typical scorching Washington summer a little bit hotter than usual.