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Jesse Jackson Jr. Told Investigators Blagojevich Sought Gift in Exchange for a Job for Jackson's Wife
Jackson's name surfaced last week on FBI tapes of Blagojevich telling an adviser that emissaries from Jackson were willing to raise $1.5 million for the governor's campaign coffers if Jackson were appointed to Obama's seat.
Jackson, the son of the Chicago-based civil rights leader, has not been accused of wrongdoing. He has told reporters that he sought the Senate seat honestly and knew of no illegal plan to influence Blagojevich.
Blagojevich and former chief of staff John Harris stand charged with wire fraud and an attempt to force the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers by threatening to withhold state help worth $100 million or more to the Tribune Co. in its sale of Wrigley Field.
Prosecutors aim to persuade a grand jury to indict Blagojevich on a wider range of public corruption charges, including charges that he tried to extort business executives -- including contractors, hospital officials and investment managers -- who sought business with the state.
Several Blagojevich aides and supporters have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with authorities, who also have a trove of secretly recorded conversations captured on a wiretap placed on his home telephone and two transmitters in his campaign office.
Impeachment committee members remain uncertain what evidence U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald will share with them and when he will do so. Committee Chairman Barbara Flynn Currie (D) said Fitzgerald has asked lawmakers to delay calling certain witnesses while the criminal case is underway.
Republicans in Washington and Springfield, the state capital, lashed out at Democrats for failing to legislate a special election to fill Obama's seat. They accused statehouse leaders of ducking a contest for fear of losing.
"The only way the people's voice will be heard and Illinois can end the taint of the Blagojevich scandal is to have a special election," said Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan.
Democrats in Springfield acknowledged that nervousness about the prospect of losing was one motivation for shelving election plans. They also cited cost estimates as high as $50 million and the four months or longer that it would take to elect a successor.
"I'm sure there's a political aspect to it, but there are pros and cons" to holding an election, said state Rep. Julie Hamos (D), a member of the impeachment panel. She estimated that Blagojevich could be forced from office by the end of February.
"The most likely option is that we will actually impeach the governor or he will resign, and the governor, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, will make the appointment," Hamos said. "That probably gives us a senator faster than a special election would."
A Quinn appointee would all but certainly be a Democrat.
"This is a Democratic seat. We want to keep it Democratic, and if an election were to be held, that opens it up to our Republican colleagues," state Sen. William Delgado (D) said, noting that it was the Democrats' decision to make. "That's a matter of whose poker game is it."
Lydersen reported from Springfield.