Rob Blagojevich wants to speak to ethics panel about Rep. Jackson
By NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 27, 2011 11:49AM
Robert Blagojevich wants to testify about U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Updated: November 29, 2011 8:19AM
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother has personally written to 10 members of Congress with an offer to testify before an ethics committee that last week re-launched its investigation of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).
Robert Blagojevich said Thursday that he sent letters to all the members of the U.S. House Committee on Ethics because: “I believe I have information I think will help them find the truth” on Jackson.
He offered his testimony or to be interviewed about Jackson’s effort to secure an appointment by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in late 2008 to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant with the election of President Barack Obama.
“Based on what I know, I believe Jesse Jackson Jr. has a lot of unanswered questions that he needs to answer,” Robert Blagojevich said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions he should be required to answer.”
Robert Blagojevich suggested he might have more details to share that did not yet come out. Tried with his brother in federal court last year, Robert Blagojevich testified in his own defense, telling jurors he was approached by two Jackson supporters on separate occasions in 2008 with an offer: Get his brother to give Jackson the Senate appointment, and Jackson would give the governor campaign cash. Robert Blagojevich was heading his brother’s campaign fund at the time.
Robert Blagojevich said Rajinder Bedi, a state official, met with him in late October 2008, offering more than $1 million for the seat on Jackson’s behalf. Bedi testified as a prosecution witness that he had met with Jackson earlier on the same day that he met with Robert Blagojevich and that both fund-raising and the Senate seat were discussed in Jackson’s presence. Bedi also testified that, when he passed along the offer, Robert Blagojevich turned it down.
The second approach, according to Robert Blagojevich’s testimony, came on Oct. 31, 2008. Jackson friend Raghu Nayak approached him with a $6 million offer — $1 million up front and Jackson would raise another $5 million for the governor once Jackson was appointed to the Senate, he said. He said he again turned it down.
“I very definitely got the impression that they were representing Jackson,” Robert Blagojevich said.
Blagojevich’s desire to testify to the ethics panel was first reported Thursday at suntimes.com.
Jackson’s attorney, Paul Langer, on Thursday said Robert Blagojevich’s petition to testify comes about a month after the Rev. Jesse Jackson rebuffed a request from the former governor, who asked the reverend to write a letter on his behalf to the sentencing judge. The letter, obtained by the Sun-Times, harkens back to a trip Blagojevich and the Rev. Jesse Jackson took to Serbia in 1999.
“I know that it was you and Mr. Blagojevich who helped free the soldiers in Serbia in 1999,” Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, wrote.
“I don’t know if there is any linkage. Certainly the timing is somewhat suspect in my mind,” Langer said of the reverend’s refusal and of Robert Blagojevich’s ethics committee offer. “[Jackson Jr.] never had a conversation with Robert Blagojevich. And he never sent an emissary to talk to him.”
Robert Blagojevich said he knew nothing of his brother’s request to the Rev. Jackson.
“That’s news to me. That in no way is a factor that the ethics committee opened up their investigation and I impulsively offered to give testimony,” he said.
Robert Blagojevich said he has heard from the counsel of the House ethics panel, acknowledging receipt of his letter offering testimony. He said he has not yet heard whether he will be asked to testify.
“We can’t comment on specific matters and allegations,” the counsel, Dan Schwager, said Thursday when asked if they would accept the testimony.
On Dec. 2, the congressman will find out whether the panel continues investigating his case.
Robert Blagojevich, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., had been charged along with his brother in 2009. Federal prosecutors accused him of having helped his brother further a scheme to sell the Senate seat. After the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the counts against Robert Blagojevich, prosecutors in 2010 dismissed the charges – without prejudice – meaning they can reinstitute charges.
Robert Blagojevich said he consulted with his attorney, Michael Ettinger, before making the testimony offer and doesn’t believe testimony before the congressional panel would expose him.
“I don’t fear testifying because all along I’ve told the truth,” Robert Blagojevich said. “The committee is looking for information. I believe I have information I think will help them find the truth. I think it will be reprehensible of me not to do that as a citizen of this country.”
The Sun-Times reported last year that Nayak, a close Jackson family friend and fund-raiser, has told federal authorities that Jackson directed him to approach the Blagojevich camp with a $6 million offer. He also told authorities that he secretly paid to fly a female friend of Jackson’s to Chicago from Washington D.C. Jackson apologized for the relationship with the so-called “social acquaintance,” but denied Nayak’s pay-to-play allegations.
Nayak himself continues to be a target of a federal investigation in an unrelated matter tied to surgical centers he owns.
The former governor was re-tried alone last summer and convicted on 17 of 20 charges he faced. Rod Blagojevich’s sentencing has not yet been rescheduled. His lawyer and wife have said the sentencing could happen in early November.
Robert Blagojevich said he and his family have sent letters of support on his brother’s behalf to U.S. District Judge James Zagel regarding the sentencing. He said he was not asked to testify at that sentencing hearing.
Contributing: Lynn Sweet