Is Jesse Jackson Jr. "Senate Candidate 5"? [Updated again!]
by Steve M, Tue Dec 09, 2008 at 10:13:39 AM EST
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.LINK
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.