With the confirmation that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was the unnamed Senate Candidate number five who supposedly offered a million dollars to the now arrested Gov. Blagojevich in return for an appointment to Barack Obama’s vacant Senate came a strong denial from Jackson that he was involved, but his denial doesn’t seem to quite add up.
Before his press conference today, Rep. Jackson Jr. denied that he was involved in a pay to play offer for Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat, “I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initiate or authorize anyone at anytime to promise anything to Gov. Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case, or to propose a deal about a US Senate seat period. I thought, mistakenly, that the process was far, above board, and on the merits. I thought, mistakenly, that the governor was evaluating me and other Senate hopefuls based on our credentials and qualifications.”
However, this denial doesn’t quite matchup with the Department of Justice’s version of the story, “Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might “get some (money) up front, maybe” from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich claimed he was approached by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”
Are we to believe that someone came to the governor and made this offer without Jackson’s knowledge? If you read between the lines on his statement, his denial is based on the idea that he didn’t authorize anything. He is trying to say that the pay to play talks might have occurred, and he was the candidate involved, but that they occurred without his authorization and knowledge. I find this claim more than a little hard to believe. How could he not have caught wind of discussions about such a deal?
The unbelievable claim that Rep. Jackson Jr. made was that he believed the process was fair. Seriously, how did he stand up in front of the cameras and say that with a straight face, when everyone was aware that was under investigation for kickbacks and corruption. I doubt that Jackson Jr. is naïve enough to believe that a corrupt governor was going to do the right thing with the decision of who to appoint to Obama’s senate seat.
What is working in Rep. Jackson Jr.’s favor is that he isn’t known to be prodigious fundraiser, who has a big war chest of campaign cash sitting around that he could have transferred over to the governor’s reelection campaign. There is also the fact that as unlikely as his story sounds, this is Illinois politics, so anything is possible. My best guess is that Jackson knew exactly what was going, and he could have authorized it, but he was smart enough to not do the dirty work himself, which gives him plausible deniability.
Rep. Jackson’s account isn’t very logical, but neither were the actions of a governor who tried to sell a senate seat while knowing that he was being recorded. Jackson could be telling the truth, but his version doesn’t add up. The reality is that Jackson was a supporter of Obama’s, and has been openly campaigning in the media for the appointment. He wants Obama’s soon to be former seat in the worst way, so it wouldn’t exactly be surprising if someone from his camp made an offer for the appointment.