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Feds investigating finances of former Ald. Sandi Jackson: sources

Updated: March 6, 2013 6:29AM



A federal financial probe of the once-politically powerful Jesse and Sandi Jackson has evolved into two separate investigations, with federal authorities taking an independent look at former Ald. Sandi Jackson, sources close to the probe told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Included in the scrutiny of Sandi Jackson, who resigned from her 7th Ward aldermanic position last month, is her access and use of her husband’s congressional campaign money, including credit card charges, as well as the movement of money from one account to another, sources say.

In his resignation letter, Jesse Jackson Jr. acknowledged a federal probe and indicated his attorneys were working with federal authorities on it. For Sandi Jackson, however, sources cautioned that the feds are still weighing whether charges are warranted and noted that prosecutors do take into account — in a financial probe — charging husband and wife who are also a mom and a dad. The couple has school-aged children.

“They are trying to sort it out right now and trying to figure out exactly what to do with her,” said one source close to the former alderman. Sandi Jackson was advised to get a lawyer at least four months ago.

Sandi Jackson for years was paid about $5,000 a month by her husband’s campaign fund through her consulting firm, Donatella & Associates. The payments continued last year even in the months that Jesse Jackson Jr. had checked into a mental health facility and, with the exception of a robo-call, did no campaigning for the Nov. 6 election, which he won.

Sandi Jackson did not respond to calls for comment.

A review of Sandi Jackson’s own campaign funds by the Sun-Times raises questions about the former alderman’s accounting.

Sandi Jackson’s 7th Ward committee, called SWIPO – Seventh Ward Independent Political Operation — shows a pattern of errors, including omitting disclosure of transfers from her husband’s congressional campaign fund, failure to disclose the purpose of credit card payments and claiming negative balances at the beginning and end of a reporting period.

On Nov. 27, days after her husband’s resignation, Sandi Jackson filed a correction for the final quarter of 2010. The corrected document submitted after her husband’s resignation showed an additional $20,000 in expenditures for that period and revealed $8,200 in transfers out of her husband’s congressional account.

The Illinois State Board of Elections sent the ward committee a letter on Nov. 5, 2012 noting it had been “notified of a possible discrepancy in committee reporting. According to Federal Election Commission disclosures, Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress reported making a number of expenditures to the 7th Ward … it appears many of these expenditures were not disclosed.”

The State Board of Elections also sent a letter dated Dec. 14, which asked: “The report begins and ends with a negative balance. Could you please clarify this?” That letter was sent the same day the Sun-Times published a story that highlighted that issue as well as a series of amendments made to the fund in the weeks after her husband’s resignation from Congress.

Since November, the State Board of Elections sent the 7th Ward committee three letters asking to clarify various campaign reports. The Sun-Times obtained the letters through the Freedom of Information Act.

On Dec. 21, the 7th Ward committee responded in a letter, blaming personnel changes.

“A change in campaign staffing contributed to the over-site [sic] of the disclosure of the items noted in your earlier email,” the committee wrote. “We are working vigorously to remedy this error through a series of amendments …”

The letter acknowledged monthly transfers from Jesse Jackson’s congressional fund to his wife’s ward organization, saying it was for rent. Campaign disclosures indicate a $1,250 per month transfer.

“All expenditures made from the Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress Committee reflect rent payments … From 2009 to the present the combined campaign committees ran a coordinated campaign, which trained campaign volunteers to staff campaigns encompassing the 7th Ward and the 2nd Congressional District.”

The letter said the combined space was used for ongoing training, field work and other file management.

The Illinois State Board of Elections said it has not received any federal subpoenas for Sandi Jackson’s campaign funds.

It is unclear whether the investigation of Sandi Jackson would slow negotiations involving Jesse Jackson Jr.

He is represented in Washington, D.C., by power attorney Reid Weingarten.

“She has not made any statements and has been advised not to talk to the press,” one source told the Sun-Times.

One source said a decision could be made within a month on Jesse Jackson’s future.

“Just how much she is involved in the plea negotiations is still up in the air, but it should be resolved soon,” added the source.



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