For those still following the absurdity unfolding around the family of ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., we now have word that his decision to run for reelection (without campaigning) and then promptly resign will cost the taxpayers over $5 million — as if the taxpayers have not paid enough to the family of Jesse Jackson.
Some of us have long been critics of Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his family who have been the focus of corruption and misconduct allegations. Then there was the disappearance of Jesse Jackson Jr. as investigators looked into his use of campaign contributors allegedly to fix up his house and to buy a Rolex watch for a mistress. At the same time, investigators were looking into his wife, who serves on the city council. No one bothered to inform his constituents when their member disappeared and left only speculation for weeks on his whereabouts. Nevertheless, weeks later, Jackson checked himself into the Mayo Clinic and announced that he would still run for reelection even with a diagnosis of having bipolar disorder. He won handily without showing up to campaign in a district that clearly does not give a wit about substantial allegations of misconduct. (Ironically, Jackson took office in a special election after his predecessor Mel Reynolds left office in a sex scandal involving an underage campaign worker). He promptly promised his constituents that he would serve vigorously in Washington. However, once elected, Jackson reportedly demanded a disability pension in return for giving up his seat — essentially holding a seat hostage according to those reports. He then resigned a couple weeks after the election — triggering the need for two special elections.
The Illinois State Board of Elections calculated those elections cost $2,700 to $4,000 per precinct. With 590 precincts in Jackson’s 2nd Congressional District, an election would probably cost around $2,575,000. That comes to $5.15 million for both a primary and general election.
Just to give you an idea of the cost imposed by the Jacksons on the taxpayers, that cost would have save the entire page system. The over 200 years of page service in the House of Representatives was eliminated to save $5 million a year. It is also the equivalent for the federal subsidy for 20 million free meals for poor children.
Yet, again, Democrats are silent in criticism of Jackson or his family in fear of angering Jesse Jackson Sr. We will simply pay millions while Jesse Jackson Jr. has yet to be indicted for the alleged misuse of campaign funds. Keep in mind that the Justice Department prosecuted the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska) for the use of lobbyist money to fix his home. The investigations into Jackson and his wife are continuing and Jackson is reportedly trying to reach a plea bargain. In the end, the criminal investigations, special election costs, and other collateral costs will make bring the final tab for taxpayers likely over $10 million even without the possibility of a criminal trial. Of course, common people can go to jail for years for stealing less than $1000, but they are not (it seems) part of America’s ruling class.
Many are awaiting the results of the reported plea negotiations with Jackson and the Justice Department to see if he will get one last deal from a less than grateful American people. [Update: How the dipolar analysis would factor into a criminal case is still unclear. There is an interesting conflict in the original position of Jackson that his illness would not prevented him from running for reelection and resuming his work in Congress. Yet it is likely that the illness will be used as a defense on any corruption or fraud charges. That creates a bit of a conflict. Being reelected certainly gave him a bargaining chip as part of the reported plea negotiations. However, it also contradicted a position that his illness did not make him responsible. By resigning, it would certainly help Jackson argue that the illness left unable to function adequately. It may also end the congressional inquiry into his involvement in an alleged effort to buy the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.
He may have a difficult time on the merits. The test of insanity as a defense is extremely high even with a diagnosis from the respected Mayo Clinic. If he cannot make a direct insanity defense, the most likely impact of the illness would be on mitigation of sentencing. If the case is a strong as suggested, he could opt for a plea and push for leniency on sentencing. The question will turn on his ability to function before he disappeared -- with accounts of his schedule and behavior in and outside Congress. Courts commonly have defendants with some form of mental illness, but such illness rarely amounts to an absolute defense.
There is also the problem of others who may have been aware of any of the alleged criminal conduct from his wife to his accountant to his staff. The prosecutors may bring a huge amount of pressure on them to turn and testify for the prosecution if a case moves to the charging stage.]