Posted on September 16, 2009

Ethics Panel Defers Probe on Jesse Jackson Jr.

Larry Margasak, AP, September 16, 2009

The House ethics committee said Wednesday it will put off for now an expanded investigation into whether Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. or his representatives tried to buy President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.

The committee revealed that the deferred investigation now includes allegations that Jackson, a Democrat, improperly used his staff in Washington and Chicago to mount a public campaign to secure the Senate seat.

The committee acted at the behest of federal prosecutors who already are investigating former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The panel normally defers investigations when requested by law enforcement, to avoid interference with prosecutors.

The committee is looking into Jackson’s interactions with Blagojevich, who has been indicted on corruption charges including alleged attempts to sell the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris.


The referral, made public by the ethics committee, stated, “In the course of conducting this review, the OCE learned that staff resources of the representative’s Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Illinois offices were used to mount a ‘public campaign’ to secure the representative’s appointment to the U.S. Senate.


The committee also said it would delay for 45 days inquiries involving California Democrat Maxine Waters and Missouri Republican Sam Graves.

Waters’ came under scrutiny after former Treasury Department officials said she helped arrange a meeting between regulators and executives at OneUnited Bank last year, without mentioning her husband’s financial ties to the institution. Her husband, Sidney Williams, served on the bank’s board until early last year and owned at least $250,000 in its stock.

{snip} She defended her role in assisting minority-owned banks in the midst of the nation’s financial meltdown and dismissed suggestions she used her influence to steer government aid to the bank.

The committee has been investigating whether Graves used his position on the Small Business Committee to invite a longtime friend, and business partner of his wife, to testify at a committee hearing on the federal regulation of biodiesel and ethanol production.



The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct made its actions known in three separate statements, revealing that its six members–three Republicans and three Democrats–had voted unanimously Tuesday to extend for 45 days its reviews of allegations against Graves and Waters, after the recently-formed Office of Congressional Ethics had referred the cases to the panel for further consideration. And the committee said that it had already been investigating Jackson–which had already been made public–when it received a separate referral from the OCE on the Illinois lawmaker.

The probe of Jackson stems from allegations, the committee reports, that he “may have offered to raise funds” for then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson being appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Blagojevich has since been impeached and removed from office, and remains under federal investigation. The ethics panel reports that the Justice Department has asked it to defer its probe of Jackson until after the federal investigation is complete, a common occurrence when Justice and the ethics committee are probing the same subject. Jackson has in the past denied any wrongdoing. His office declined to comment Wednesday.

The committee did not publicly reveal what allegations it is weighing against Waters or Graves.


Unusually, the ethics panel noted in its statement that the OCE “did not find a ‘substantial reason to believe’ that there was a substantive violation” of any ethics rules by Graves, but the office had referred the case anyway. And, the panel announced, the OCE’s report included “potentially exculpatory materials” that should have been provided to Graves, but wasn’t.