Jesse Jackson Jr. Told Investigators Blagojevich Sought Gift in Exchange for a Job for Jackson's Wife

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has signaled he will fight for his job, leaves his house. An aide said the governor has signed 11 bills into law this week.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has signaled he will fight for his job, leaves his house. An aide said the governor has signed 11 bills into law this week. (By Nam Y. Huh -- Associated Press)
By Peter Slevin and Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

CHICAGO. Dec. 16 -- Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) told federal investigators that Gov. Rod Blagojevich asked for a $25,000 campaign contribution during Blagojevich's 2002 run for governor and may have exacted retribution when the money did not arrive, a political source close to Jackson said Tuesday.

After Blagojevich (D) won, he considered and rejected Jackson's wife, Sandi, for the job of state lottery director, the source said.

Later, the governor saw Rep. Jackson at an event in Washington and, according to the source, told him he bet Jackson regretted not paying up.

The allegation surfaced as a special impeachment committee of the Illinois House of Representatives in Springfield began to investigate Blagojevich's conduct in the wake of his arrest by FBI agents last week on public corruption charges. Blagojevich signaled that he intends to battle for his job.

"He's not stepping aside. He hasn't done anything wrong. We're going to fight this case," Ed Genson, Blagojevich's attorney, declared as he prepared for a Wednesday appearance before the bipartisan impeachment committee.

The 21-member committee aims to make a recommendation by mid-January, when the General Assembly next convenes. Members of both chambers said Tuesday that they expect a Senate trial and an effort to remove Blagojevich if he does not quit.

As long as Blagojevich clings to power -- an aide said he signed 11 bills into law this week -- lawmakers think the state's severe budget crunch will remain unresolved and President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat will go unfilled.

"Running a state is a hard thing to do," said state Rep. John A. Fritchey (D). "Running a state in an economic crisis is even harder. And running a state with 30 years hanging over your head is damn near impossible."

As the federal influence-peddling investigation continued, the Chicago television station WLS reported aspects of Jackson's discussions with prosecutors about the alleged 2002 Blagojevich request for campaign money.

The source close to Jackson reported that Jackson recalled his experience with Blagojevich during this summer's trial of political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted of trading on his access to the governor.

Businessman Ali Ata, who testified that he sought an appointment in the Blagojevich administration, told jurors that he was repeatedly asked for campaign contributions in $25,000 chunks. The number rang a bell with the congressman.

Kenneth Edmonds, Jackson's Washington spokesman, said the congressman "has shared information with the U.S. attorney's office about public corruption in the state during the past several years." He added that Jackson was not acting as an informant in a particular case.

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