Saturday, December 24, 2011

House Ethics Committee needs to dig deep into Jackson dealings

, member of the United States House of Represe...
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

 Headlines indicated recently that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is still being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for his alleged role in trying to leverage a seat in the U.S. Senate by offering funds to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Jackson claims that neither he nor his emissaries ever offered money to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the appointment.
Can we believe Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his less than monogamous relationship with the truth?
If the House members believe that Jackson’s role in allegedly trying to buy a U.S. Senate seat is an isolated incident, I certainly hope they probe just a little deeper.
Jackson not only tried to coerce Blagojevich into handing over a seat in the United States Senate, but Jackson also tried to get Blagojevich to hand over land to his self-established airport authority for his pet project, the Peotone Airport.
Jackson has devoted his entire congressional career toward the State of Illinois’ ill-fated effort to build a new airport outside the 2nd congressional district. The latest redistricting, would finally place the Peotone area into Jackson’s grasp. That is, if he wins re-election, which only time and ultimately an election can determine.
Jackson’s campaign website once blatantly included Peotone in a list of communities in the second congressional district. After much criticism, he later corrected it.
In 2007, I was tuned-in to C-Span to watch Jackson’s performance as he sought an earmark of $231,000 in the Financial Services Appropriations bill for “minority and small business development and procurement opportunities.” Jackson painted his usual rosy picture of the proposed airport, which Jackson has dubbed the Abraham Lincoln National Airport. He began talking about how beneficial the project would be to the poorest people of Illinois.
I was angered when I heard Jackson tell his colleagues the airport would abut Ford Heights, one of the poorest community in Illinois. Ford Heights is in Jackson’s district. It is a poor, urban, predominantly black community. It has long been a high crime, blighted area, with high unemployment. In stark contrast, the area where the airport is proposed, is a relatively affluent, predominantly white farming community with low crime and virtually no unemployment. Its economy centers on agriculture. Not only are the two regions geographically far apart, but they might as well be worlds apart politically, socially, and economically. The people who live in the Peotone area are adamantly opposed to the airport Jackson touts. I know. I helped organize an opposition group against the project in 1988.
One of the critics of Jackson’s request earmark was, Congressman John Campbell, R-CA who introduced an amendment to the bill to ban Jackson’s earmark, calling Jackson’s request “federal funding for a phantom airport.”
Campbell’s bill would have stripped taxpayer funding for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission because, as he stated the Abraham Lincoln National Airport doesn’t exist.
He pointed out that in a Jackson press release in Nov. 2006, Jackson said he would not seek federal funds for the airport.
Campbell also questioned the potential conflict in the dual role of Jackson’s Deputy District Administrator Richard Bryant, who is now Jackson’s Chief of Staff. Bryant is also the Executive Director for the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission (ALNAC) that Jackson established.
Back in Illinois, ex-Congressman Jerry Weller, R-Morris, in whose district the proposed project would be located, called ALNAC into question when it raised $267,000 to lobby Blagojevich. Weller called the campaign “self-promotion,” because Jackson was eyeing a possible run for the Chicago Mayor’s office. Weller suggested the money be returned “to the impoverished communities.”
Jackson had envisioned that state-owned land, about half of what the state needs for the airport, could be simply turned over to Jackson’s airport commission. An opinion by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, however, issued an opinion that under Illinois law, the state cannot convey property at no cost or for less than fair market value.
These issues are likely just the tip of the iceberg, which is why an intense investigation is warranted.