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Rod Blagojevich denies Jesse Jackson Jr.’s extortion allegation

Updated: May 27, 2011 1:09AM



Taking the witness stand Thursday, Rod Blagojevich denied he ever shook down U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for a campaign contribution in exchange for appointing Jackson’s wife to head the Illinois lottery.

Blagojevich, on trial on federal corruption charges, said he had “absolutely no recollection of his talking to me, ever, ever of appointing his wife for the Illinois Lottery.”

Jackson had leveled the charged during testimony Wednesday, in which he alleged Blagojevich did not appoint his wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson, to an Illinois Lottery post because Jackson refused to ante up a $25,000 campaign contribution.

Jackson testified that in 2003, former Congressman Bill Lipinski approached Jackson and asked him to donate that amount to Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaign.

“No chance,” Jackson said.

Six months later, Jackson described seeing Blagojevich again — after the then-governor appointed someone else to the Illinois Lottery.

“I walked in the room and there was a chill in the air. I could see in his face, he wasn’t going to be able to do anything for Sandi,” Jackson said. “The governor came up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry the thing with Sandi didn’t work out.’

Then Jackson dropped the kicker:

“In classic Elvis Presley fashion, he snapped his fingers and said, ‘You should have given me that $25,000,’ ’’ Jackson said.

Thursday, Blagojevich’s lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, asked the ex-governor: “Did you request of Jesse Jackson Jr. a campaign contribution?’’

Answered Blagojevich: “It’s like he said, he never gave campaign contributions to others.”

That was a reference to earlier testimony from Jackson in which he denied ever telling campaign fund-raisers to give money to Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to an open U.S. Senate seat. Prosecutors contend Blagojevich as governor tried to sell the appointment to the highest bidder.

“I never directed anyone to raise money for another politician in my life, other than myself, in 16 years,” Jackson testified Wednesday.



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