Among the more colorful abuses of campaign funds by Jesse Jackson Jr., the disgraced former congressman, and his wife Sandi, was a $5,700 five-night stay on the vacation island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Jackson was sentenced to 30 months in prison Wednesday for using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money to fund just such extravagances.
In December 2008, the Jacksons booked a five-night stay at Martha’s Vineyard Holistic Retreat, an upmarket detox center in Vineyard Haven.
Roni DeLuz, 58, who owns the retreat, said they signed up for a strict regime that involved drinking a cocktail of juices and vitamins every two hours, as well as spa treatments and meditation and yoga sessions.
DeLuz said detoxing guests, which typically include “doctors, politicians and CEOs,” are required to drink “green juices and antioxidant juices and vitamin mixers and soups every two hours.”
“During the day you can get a treatment – colonic, massage and lymphatic drainage -- and the other part of the program was stress reduction …[with] individual counseling and classes every single day,” she added.
Her business partner, James Hester, 48, a former record company executive, said the former congressman’s wife, Sandi, had booked the retreat after reading the pair’s book “21 Pounds in 21 Days: The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox.”
He said Jackson had been looking to keep his weight down after undergoing stomach surgery, but had ended up staying behind in Chicago because he hoped the governor of Illinois was about to announce that he would be appointed to President Obama’s old Senate seat until the next election. Instead, Roland Burris received the nod later that month.
Hester said Sandi had been “lovely,” although he added that she had left a day early and had spent much of the previous four days on the telephone to her husband. The retreat also hosted Sandi’s mother in January 2009.
“They were very nice, they had a great time here, the mission was accomplished,” DeLuz said.
But there wasn’t to be a happy ending.
Several years later, in April 2012, DeLuz received a subpoena requiring her to testify in court when it was discovered that the $5,687.75 the couple had paid for the retreat came from campaign funds.
She said she feels “scammed and ripped off” by what had happened, spending more on legal fees to avoid testifying — which she was able to accomplish — than the retreat had made from the booking.
“Basically I was just trying to make them healthy. It’s very sad.”