Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Convicted Jesse Jackson, Jr. finally going to jail

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson and his wife Sandi
are both going to jail
Today, a judge sentenced ex-Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. to 30 months in prison for his misuse of campaign funds. His wife, a former Chicago alderman was also sentenced to 12 months, also for misuse of funds. The couple has been convicted of squandering $750,000.

While many saw Jackson as a rising political star, others of us have seen him doing far more than ripping off campaign funds. Yet, his other deeds have not even been broached in a courtroom, nor will they likely ever be.

Jackson's behavior is systemic. His biggest failing is that he would stop at nothing to make himself look good. It is a shame too, because he is bright, well-read, articulate, and could have become an influential congressman. He chose otherwise.

I once had respect for the Jackson family until I learned how they would use anyone or anything to advance themselves. I believe Jackson's father began his Civil Rights work for the right reason, but quickly learned to scam the system. Apparently, so did his children.

The deed that is particularly close to me began when Jesse Jackson, Jr. teamed up with an unlikely partner, the late Congressman Henry Hyde, (R-Wood Dale) to reignite the state's dead effort to build a new airport south of Chicago in the cornfields of eastern Will County. The South Suburban Airport (Peotone Airport) had been advanced by the State of Illinois for 45 years in its latest quest. In actuality a new airport was first proposed in the 1960's. It is amazing that the wrong-headed effort continues today, perpetuated by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Prior to Jackson's involvement, the airport was dead; it was killed in the early 1990's after Illinois Republicans' vigorous last-ditch effort failed to garner enough political support. In 1992 a bi-state panel voted against building an airport in a rural area. In particular, they opposed building a new airport near Peotone. The effort was revived by former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, (R-IL) two years later, despite a growing lack of interest.

Then along came Jackson, a new up-and-coming black leader who was enthusiastic, well-spoken, and charismatic. His well-known last name didn't hurt at all. Jackson's enthusiasm brought new vitality to the effort. He didn't flinch as he used his own constituents' reputation as some of the poorest communities in Illinois, as he offered them false hope for economic vitality and the jobs they so desperately needed, even after the project was downsized from three times the size of O'Hare International to a mere one runway facility.

When Illinois elected former Secretary of State George Ryan as governor, now a convicted felon recently released from prison, Ryan urged IDOT to buy land in the vicinity of the airport, though not in the airport footprint. It began a groundswell of fear resulting in long time farmers and landowners selling their land to the state. They feared they had no other choice. The state bought up as much as it could.

Jackson was able to light a spark that finally caught fire when the unlikely team began to have an effect. He and Hyde drew upon their mutual dislike and distrust for Chicago's aviation prowess. Soon the effort to push an unnecessary airport was revived by Jackson and his unlikely friends.

Using some of the same histrionics that caused Jackson to spend campaign cash and become a convicted felon, Jackson convinced some of those poor communities to contribute to what had become his obsession--the Peotone Airport. Those poor communities ponied up dollars for billboards, marketing efforts, and whatever else that might convince Ryan's successor, then Gov. Rod Blagojevich, another Illinois governor whose above-the-law behavior landed him behind bars, to support the project. Much to Blagojevich's credit however, he didn't give in to Jackson who continued to promise jobs and economic development to the beleaguered communities in Chicago's southern suburbs.

Once Ryan was in jail, the Peotone Airport became a Democrat-led undertaking, with Jackson taking the lead. Even after Hyde died in 2007, Jackson persisted, by working with Hyde cronies in the western suburbs. They were united in their disdain for Chicago and its hold on O'Hare. The many efforts by O'Hare-area mayors over the years to wrest control of O'Hare failed. Chicago's opposition to another new airport 40 miles south of downtown was the Peotone Airport's biggest roadblock. Thus it was likely the biggest incentive for Jackson to make it happen.

Then, Jackson let his ego and lust for power guide his actions. There was nothing he couldn't accomplish, so he thought. Apparently that included his personal life. He set up his wife Sandi, the ex-Chicago alderman who was also sentenced today, in a well-funded campaign office. He continued fundraising.

Jackson apparently thought he could do better as a U.S. Senator. So when Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was elected President, Jackson tried to get Blagojevich to appoint him to Obama's vacant senate seat. Jackson allegedly tried to buy the position by offering Blagojevich favors and campaign cash. Apparently it was Jackson that went to the feds about Blagojevich's activities. But his own dealings, particularly in buying Obama's senate seat became fodder for investigation as well. He was named one of the most corrupt members in congress. He faced ethics violations. His house of cards began to tumble.

Yet none of that was covered in Jackson's recent conviction. When sentenced, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson indicated that Jackson, as a U.S. Congressman, should have been held to a higher standard. She said he violated the public trust.

Everything I have seen about Jackson, violated the public trust. From his teaming up with Hyde to participate in Illinois' pay-to-play system, to lying to his colleagues about the location of the proposed airport that was not even in his congressional district at the time, to completely misleading his own constituents for which he provided false hope that an airport miles and miles from their communities would be a benefit to them.

It is just too bad the charges against Jesse Jackson, Jr. couldn't be all inclusive of all of his misdeeds. Only then would justice really be served.

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