Did Jacksons commit a ‘victimless’ crime?
Lynn Sweet @lynnsweet June 18, 2013 8:38PM
Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2010
Updated: July 20, 2013 6:42AM
WASHINGTON — We know that Jesse Jackson Jr. and wife Sandi admitted to looting about $750,000 from their campaign funds, but there is another issue to be resolved: Are there any victims?
Federal prosecutors say yes.
Lawyers for Jesse Jackson Jr. say no.
The rival legal teams are wrangling over that question in advance of the Jacksons’ July 3 sentencing here by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (no relation).
The issue about whether there are victims has surfaced because it is linked to the related questions of how much restitution and fines Jesse Jackson Jr. should pay — and who should control the $105,703 cash left in his Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress campaign fund.
Anyway, we’ve know for some months now Jesse and Sandi Jackson abused the public trust; but who did they victimize?
His lawyers said no one.
“Mr. Jackson controlled his campaign organization and its spending, which had as its sole purpose his continued re-election to Congress. . . . . Ordering him to pay restitution to his own campaign as a “victim” of his crimes would not serve the traditional goals of restitution and is unnecessary in this case,” his lawyers said.
Federal prosecutors said the public is the victim.
They asked the judge to disregard Jesse Jackson Jr.’s argument that “his crime was, essentially victimless” even as none of his donors have asked for their money back.
They said a victim is “the integrity of the campaign finance system” and the causes former Rep. Jackson held most dear.
Federal campaign funds can be donated to other candidates and causes, as well as paying the costs of running an election campaign.
The $750,000 taken from the campaign fund during the seven years it was being drained could have been used “to support the causes he publically supported.”
“He could have directed the campaign to donate the money to a non-profit that: addressed minority health disparities; provided aid for impoverished and war-torn nations; supported civil rights; provided safe drinking waters to communities that lacked it; invested in Chicago’s South Side or assisted those who faced foreclosure,” the federal prosecutors said.
“Defendant chose, instead, to steal this $750,000 and use it to buy a Rolex watch, high-end appliances, furs, collector’s items and countless other items.”
The judge is also being asked to appoint a monitor to close down the Jesse Jackson Jr. campaign fund; its treasurer has stopped filing required reports and is not responding to Federal Election Commission letters demanding action.
Jesse Jackson Jr. lawyers are telling the judge it would just waste the remaining campaign money in part because “the monitor would need to be paid for these services.”
My suggestion to the judge is to appoint a monitor and send the cash to election officials in the city of Chicago and Cook and Will Counties.
When it comes to victims, Jesse Jackson Jr. cost taxpayers a lot of money when he resigned from Congress last Nov. 21 — days after winning re-election on Nov. 6.
His resignation forced an expensive primary and general election for the 2nd District seat, especially in Chicago, where there were no other local elections taking place.
Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen told me Tuesday that just for the city portion of the district, the tab for the primary and general election was more than $600,000.
So send them the money. The local taxpayers are victims too.