Is Jesse Jackson Jr. "Senate Candidate 5"? [Updated again!]

(Cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

Marc Ambinder speculates that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is the unnamed "Senate Candidate 5" in the Blagojevich indictment, based upon the apparent timing of a recent meeting between Jackson and the Guv.  Since this speculation is being widely disseminated, I wanted to look more closely at it.  Even assuming Ambinder is right about that meeting, his argument simply makes no sense to me.

Ambinder even cites the paragraph of the indictment which leads me to draw the exact opposite conclusion as he does.  To put this excerpt in context, "Senate Candidate 1" is apparently Barack Obama's preferred choice for the seat:

102. Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a "Presidentelect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to."ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.


In my reading, Blagojevich is saying here that if Obama won't do anything for him, then screw Obama, he'll appoint Senate Candidate 5 instead.  Ambinder agrees with my interpretation: "In other words -- if Blago doesn't get what he wanted, then he'd stiff the POTUS by appointing someone he didn't like -- Senate Candidate 5."

So then, how could Senate Candidate 5 possibly be Jesse Jackson Jr.?  Unless I'm missing something, there is no reason to think that Obama doesn't like Jesse Jackson Jr., or that appointing Jackson to the seat would be perceived as any kind of "slap" to Obama.  To the contrary, Jackson was a prominent surrogate for Obama during the presidential campaign, and I have never heard anything to suggest that Obama would be upset if Jackson took his Senate seat (although Jackson may not be his first choice).

To be clear, whether or not Jackson is "Senate Candidate 5," there are no allegations of criminal activity against Senate Candidate 5 in the indictment.  But the charges definitely cast that anonymous person in an unfavorable light:

On December 4, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke to Advisor B and informed Advisor B that he was giving Senate Candidate 5 greater consideration for the Senate seat because, among other reasons, if ROD BLAGOJEVICH ran for re-election Senate Candidate 5 would "raise[] money" for ROD BLAGOJEVICH, although ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5 to insure Senate Candidate 5 kept his promise about raising money for ROD BLAGOJEVICH. (In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: "We were approached `pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.")

The indictment is unclear on this point, and whether or not Senate Candidate 5 did anything illegal necessarily depends on what exactly was said between him and Blagojevich - and by the sound of it, the Feds may not even have wiretaps of those particular conversations.  But I'm pretty confident that Senate Candidate 5, whomever he or she may be, is not getting the Senate appointment given the light this indictment paints them in.

UPDATE: The speculation continues. Ben Smith suggests that Candidate 5 might be long-time Illinois State Rep. Art Turner. But has Turner been "publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat," to quote the indictment? I haven't seen his name mentioned previously.

UPDATE #2: ABC News says I am wrong, citing anonymous law-enforcement sources:
Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) is the anonymous "Senate Candidate #5" whose emissaries Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reportedly claimed offered up to a million dollars to name him to the U.S. Senate, federal law enforcement sources tell ABC News... Jackson Jr. said this morning he was contacted yesterday by federal prosecutors in Chicago who he said "asked me to come in and share with them my insights and thoughts about the selection process." Jackson Jr. said "I don't know" when asked if he was Candidate #5, but said he was told "I am not a target of this investigation."
If I'm wrong, it certainly won't be the first time. But it certainly doesn't look good for Jackson, in a political sense, if he was Blagojevich's #2 choice in the event that Obama wouldn't cough up any payola.

Tags: corruption, Jesse Jackson Jr., Rod Blagojevich (all tags)



Re: Is Jesse Jackson Jr. Senate Candidate 5?

Your thoughts are welcome, and as always, your concerns are noted!

by Steve M 2008-12-09 10:14AM | 0 recs
Even my concern...

About Illinois' new title as "Most Corrupt State in the Union"? I feel so sad for my Chicago friends right now. Just when they felt their state was redeemed...

by atdleft 2008-12-09 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Even my concern...


Illinois is bad, but it's not Alaska!

by Bush Bites 2008-12-09 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Even my concern...

Who the hell is williamandmary, and what's with the childish HR's?

by Denny Crane 2008-12-10 08:08AM | 0 recs
Maybe not?

Here's another possibility: 208/Senate_Candidate_5.html

Emil Jones

by NewOaklandDem 2008-12-09 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe not?

I was under the impression that Emil Jones was Obama's mentor in the State Senate and that they were quite close.  If I'm right, then that hypothesis wouldn't make sense for the same reason.

by Steve M 2008-12-09 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Jesse Jackson Jr. Senate Candidate 5?

The question is who is "they" in "but if they feel like they can do this..."? If "they" is Obama, then candidate 5 is probably not Jackson Jr. If "they" is candidate 1, then candidate 5 could be Jackson Jr.

Either way, Blagojevich is scum, and no one he was considering will get the seat.

by LakersFan 2008-12-09 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Jesse Jackson Jr. Senate Candidate 5?

From the other comments Blagojevich makes in the indictment about Obama's unwillingness to do him any favors, I think it's very likely that "they" refers to Obama.

It sounds like there is going to be legislation leading to an immediate special election, which makes sense.  Obviously Blagojevich can't be allowed to appoint anyone, and he doesn't seem to be going anywhere in the near term.

by Steve M 2008-12-09 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Jesse Jackson Jr. Senate Candidate 5?

Could be. But when people are part of a criminal conspiracy they tend to become paranoid, and they start looking at the whole world as "us" and "them", so "they" could be anyone who didn't want to "pay to play" (amazing that Blagojevich is so stupid and so corrupt that he actually used those words).

by LakersFan 2008-12-09 10:50AM | 0 recs

My reading is that the "screw you" would come from denying the seat to Candidate 1 for no reason other than vindictiveness, not necessarily in appointing Candidate 5 instead.  So, I don't think it's necessary to read the passage as if Obama dislikes Candidate 5, just that he'd prefer Candidate 1 to Candidate 5 and Blago would reject Candidate 1 out of spite.

by rfahey22 2008-12-09 10:40AM | 0 recs

That's the way I read it too.

by LakersFan 2008-12-09 10:43AM | 0 recs

That would be a very, very mild form of vindictiveness, if so.  It would be like saying "Fuck Obama, either he gives us something or we'll appoint his 2nd or 3rd choice."  I can't imagine why they would insist on a big favor from Obama to appoint his 1st choice, but would give him his 2nd or 3rd choice for free.

by Steve M 2008-12-09 10:44AM | 0 recs

Maybe, but Blago himself might also prefer Candidate 5 because s/he may be more willing to "pay to play," as suggested by the snippets above.  It could be a two-for-one - screw Obama and install an ally.

by rfahey22 2008-12-09 10:56AM | 0 recs

Or it could be more like: "F Obama, if he doesn't give us what we want, we'll give him his 2nd or 3rd choice who happens to be willing to give us what we want". Sounds like he's working all the angles just to see where he can get the biggest payoff.

by LakersFan 2008-12-09 10:59AM | 0 recs
That makes sense.

Blago probably cares more about the $$$$ than dissing Obama, so I can see how he'd appoint Candidate 5 simply for the $$$$.

by atdleft 2008-12-09 11:23AM | 0 recs

That seems to make sense. It doesn't seem like Obama was diametrically opposed to JJ, Jr. It just looks like he preferred Valerie Jarrett, and I find it interesting that he pulled Jarrett out of Chicago & into DC just as Blago was complaining here that Obama didn't want to play his game. Oh yes, and so far the only candidate who we know visited Blago was JJ, Jr.

So maybe JJ, Jr. isn't "Candidate 5", but it's a little difficult to completely exonerate him right now.

by atdleft 2008-12-09 10:53AM | 0 recs
5 might've worn a wire...

It's possible that #5 was cooperating with the Feds and got Blago to (so to speak) drop trou and show his true colors.

#5 might be one of the good guys.

by Dracomicron 2008-12-09 10:48AM | 0 recs
I was thinking that too

I wonder when we will find out whether that's the case.

by desmoinesdem 2008-12-09 11:45AM | 0 recs
Probably when...

"Senate Candidate 5" either gets indicted or is called to testify against Blago in court.

by atdleft 2008-12-09 01:34PM | 0 recs
Another interpretation.

Maybe what he meant was that Obama didn't like JJ, Jr for the seat.  He is one of the few candidates to have a movement against him because he is seen as too liberal for downstate voters.

by psychodrew 2008-12-09 11:55AM | 0 recs
Well, not just that...

After all, Jan Schakowsky also gets labeled as "too liberal" all the time. However, there doesn't seem to be a strong movement against making her Senator. Hmmm, I wonder why...

It may be that JJ, Jr.'s made too many enemies in Illinois. I know he talked smack against (successful) Dem Congressional Candidate Debbie Halvorson because he was irritated about some transportation project he supported. I believe he's also had run-ins with top Dem pols in Chicago. It just may be that JJ, Jr. thought he needed to "pay to play" with Blago to get that Senate seat he SO desperately wanted...

Unless he's not "Senate Candidate 5"...

by atdleft 2008-12-09 01:41PM | 0 recs
An interesting analysis

However, I think it's safe to say Jackson will be considered #5 until a replacement offender is credibly outed.

If your analysis is right, Ambinder has committed a pretty serious journalistic breach.

by Neef 2008-12-09 12:06PM | 0 recs
I'm not "getting" this.

What I'm finding incredible, as far as this entire story's concerned, is the double standard being employed relating to this entire matter.

This is standard fare--it's not right but it is what it is--in most big city/big state U.S. politics, today. "You scratch my back, I scratch yours"...and it frequently revolves around commitments for political donations, too.

Half the freakin' ambassadorships in this country were doled out to large campaign donors, as well as many cabinet positions.

Power in the legislative branch both nationally and on a state-by-state basis--getting it and keeping it in both the House and the Senate--is almost directly tied-into the willingness of those with large campaign warchests and/or access to funds sharing the wealth with others and heeding to the demands of the most senior members of their  respective political entities when it comes to donating funds to this or that campaign, party organization or cause.

It's an inconvenient truth. But, it is the truth.

So, exactly what has Blagojevich been caught doing here? If you ask me, it's called "GWS," or Governing With Stupidity.

Like Watergate and Abscam, and everything since, behind closed doors, what "they'll" say is this: "The most f**ked-up thing this guy did was get caught."

So, I'm certainly of the opinion that the way things are isn't right. But, it is the way much is done, both here in the U.S. and almost everywhere else.

So, while this time, the total freakin' idiot was dumb enough to shoot his mouth off in front of the wrong microphone, I'm getting a real kick out of all this feigned indignation in the blogosphere today.

Or, are there really this many folks that are this naive around here?

Flame away folks. (But, we know I speak the truth. At least I know it.)

by bobswern 2008-12-09 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not "getting" this.

I think if the extent of it was Blagojevich promising the seat to whoever pledged to raise the most money for his re-election, that's arguably not a crime.  But that wasn't the extent of it.  Among other things, he's talking about lucrative jobs for his wife and/or himself.

by Steve M 2008-12-09 12:49PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not "getting" this.

I think most of us assume that this stuff goes on, but not in this blatent and outright of a fashion. Of course politics is full of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" behavior, but I don't think it's "normal" for it to come out as actual demands for "pay to play". And I certainly assumed those were the words the media used to describe the practice, not the words that someone engaged in criminal activity would use.

I guess I just always assumed that corrupt politicians were smarter and sneakier than this.

(And I do think that handing out Ambassadorships, which are very often just figureheads, is very different than awarding a Senate seat.)

by LakersFan 2008-12-09 12:53PM | 0 recs

It's hard to convict anyone for implicit "pay to play". If Senate Candidate 5 had quietly given Blago campaign $ before being offered the seat, there'd be no indictment. But because there was an explicit transaction happening, it's a federal crime. Sad, but true.

by atdleft 2008-12-09 01:43PM | 0 recs
there was no microphone

there were wiretaps and his office was bugged.  Whether this goes on all the time or not, it's illegal: scode18/usc_sec_18_00000201----000-.html

There doesn't even have to be an explicit quid pro quo - see sec. (c)

by JJE 2008-12-09 02:48PM | 0 recs
Yeah, but to prove conspiracy... have to have the other party acknowledging it and indicating that it's about to be carried out.

My call on this is that Fitzgerald, who's pretty notoriously considered to be the quintessential GOP DOJ hack extraordinaire (that he is), simply acted too soon...and this is all a big cup of nuthin' going nowhere.

This appears to be more about throwing s**t up on a wall, with absolutely nothing being able to stick except for a bunch of negative press going nowhere fast.

But, what do I know? LOL!

by bobswern 2008-12-09 12:54PM | 0 recs
there are lots of ways to prove agreement

that fall short of an explicit acknowledgement.  Also, there's no requirement of imminence as you appear to be suggesting.

by JJE 2008-12-09 02:45PM | 0 recs
According to CNN valarie Jarett is candidate 1

by Joshuagen 2008-12-09 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: According to CNN valarie Jarett is candidate 1

That much seems indisputable to me.

by Steve M 2008-12-09 02:29PM | 0 recs
I don't care who it is. If there is a law broken,

the person should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unless a bunch of these crooks are in jail, nothing will change in the Chicago politics...

by louisprandtl 2008-12-09 10:15PM | 0 recs
Can somebody please can explain to me why this

comment of mine was hiderated by WilliamandMary?

by louisprandtl 2008-12-10 05:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Can somebody please can explain to me why this

That's a good question.  That poster's last 20 ratings were zeroes and not a single one of them appears hide-worthy to me.  It's possible they're confused about the rating system or something.

by Steve M 2008-12-10 06:14AM | 0 recs
Looks like the hiderater magically has


by louisprandtl 2008-12-10 01:02PM | 0 recs
I am not surprised

His comments after the New Hampshire primary showed that he is capable of going really low.

by ann0nymous 2008-12-10 07:19AM | 0 recs
Re: I am not surprised

Mandatory bitter Hillary Clinton supporter comment.

by obama4presidente 2008-12-10 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: I am not surprised

Actually, JJJ has played the "hatchet man." So, this does happen in turn.

by christinep 2008-12-10 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: I am not surprised


by obama4presidente 2008-12-10 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: I am not surprised

Please, people, we do not need the zillionth discussion about whether or not Jesse Jackson Jr. is a meanie.  From any of you.

by Steve M 2008-12-10 01:38PM | 0 recs


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