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Jesse Jr. and Sandi Jackson squander gifts, goodwill

U.S. Rep. Jesse JacksJr. (2nd District)

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (2nd District)

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Updated: November 18, 2012 7:04AM

Jackals. That’s what Ald. Sandi Jackson recently called the press corps gathered outside her Sept. 25 birthday fund-raiser.

That’s fine. We’ve been called worse. No surprise.

What is surprising — amazing, even — is that once upon a time, the alderman and her congressman husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., used to be pretty darn smart in their dealings with us jackals.

“This whole debacle, it’s like being at the Indy 500 and watching one car after another spinning out,” said Delmarie Cobb, president and CEO of the Publicity Works, a political consulting firm.

Cobb, who served as press secretary for the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid, is astonished. You can hear it in her voice.

“Everybody in that family is media savvy,” said Cobb, “from Jesse Sr. to Jesse Jr. to Sandi to [longtime press aides] Frank Watkins and Rick Bryant. Not one of them isn’t media savvy.”

You’d never know it.

When Jesse Jr. disappeared in early June, it took the Jackson team two weeks to even begin to explain his absence. Ultimately, we learned of a bipolar disorder that continues to keep him at home and under a doctor’s care except when found he wasn’t at home because he was at a bar down the street.

The congressman’s health and personal relationships, you could argue, are his private business. Poorly handled. But private unless they interfere with his duties.

It is two investigations that really matter. A congressional ethics probe examining allegations that Jackson Jr. tried to buy Barack Obama’s former Senate seat from our now incarcerated former governor, Rod Blagojevich. And a just-revealed FBI probe focused on whether campaign contributions went for his personal use.

Neither investigation has been sufficiently explained to the public by Jesse Jr. Or by his wife, also an elected public official, whose political consulting firm, J. Donatella & Associates, advises her husband. And has been paid for that advice — $429,000 since 2003 — from his political fund. It looks terrible. but it’s legal.

In addition, Sandi Jackson gets $115,000 in salary — plus health and pension benefits — as a Chicago alderman, even though she mostly lives in Washington D.C., not in the ward she represents.

And Rep. Jackson makes $174,000 in salary — plus health and pension benefits — as a congressman. Unlike less fortunate Americans who endure long illnesses, he keeps getting paychecks whether he goes to work or not.

And make no mistake, Jesse Jackson Jr. will be re-elected in November in spite of everything. That’s because he is in a majority Democratic district. And because his opponents — a write-in, an independent and a Republican — have neither money nor name recognition to win.

“I wish I could write [the Republican] a check for $1 million, but the district is just too skewed Democratic,” Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady said, regretfully.

The whole thing is skewed.

Not least of which is a power couple — well-educated, talented and attractive — who haven’t had the good sense not to squander their considerable gifts.

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