Yesterday, I was sitting around thinking about how Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. found himself in the predicament that is now in. To begin with, how did Jackson secure a very public meeting with Blagojevich to discuss the open Senate seat. Blagojevich, as one can tell from the criminal complaint, wasn’t just meeting with anyone. Most of the other named candidates were contacted by emissaries from Blagojevich’s circle. Something must have happened between Blagojevich’s people and Jackson’s people that preceded a meeting. Preconditions must have been met.
State Senator Kwame Raoul, who represents President-Elect Obama’s old South Side district, explains that consideration for the Senate seat was contingent on paying-to-play. This was an open secret:
The state senator, Kwame Raoul, who represents the South Side of Chicago, offered few details of his interaction with the governor’s office but said he received a call about a month ago confirming that he was under consideration. Soon afterward, however, Mr. Raoul said he ran head-on into another message: that the governor was looking for a candidate who offered something of tangible value to him.
“It was open knowledge among people in and around Springfield,” Mr. Raoul said. “Legislators and lobbyists alike openly talked about the fact that the governor would want to appoint somebody who would benefit him. I can firmly say that I’ve had these conversations, that I’ve spoken with both legislators and lobbyists who felt that that would be the consideration in his appointment.”
Mr. Raoul would not specifically say what the content of the conversations were, or whom they were with, except that the initial inquiry from the governor’s office was made by Victor Roberson, deputy director for intergovernmental affairs. Interest in his candidacy died on both sides, Mr. Raoul said, adding, “Obviously, the perception was that I didn’t have anything to give other than my service.”
If Raoul is being accurate, we can determine that something happened behind the scenes prior to a meeting between Jackson (Senate Candidate 5) and the governor. Sure enough, “businessmen with ties to both the governor and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign as a way to encourage him to pick Jackson for the job,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Jackson denies knowing about any emissaries acting on his behalf to raise money for Blagojevich. The inclusion of the congressman’s brother at a fundraiser for Blagojevich, meant to help persuade the governor to pick Jackson, may bring that denial into doubt.
Unfortunately for Jackson, it looks as though people close to him were playing Blagojevich’s game. Jackson’s knowledge of these fundraisers and promises are certainly key to unraveling his involvement.