By Ruth Conniff
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Jesse Jackson Jr is following in the footsteps of so many Illinois politicians as he is reportedly making a plea deal that could see him do jail time.
Instead of returning to Washington for Congress's lame duck session, Jackson is nowhere to be seen. The seventeen-year Congressman from Chicago's South Side was released from Mayo Clinic earlier this week, but has not been seen publicly.
The Mayo Clinic has been treating Jackson -- first at the clinic and then as an outpatient at his Washington, D.C. home -- for a bipolar mood disorder since June.
Even though he has not been working at his Congressional office for months, Jackson ran for office and won another term last week. The entire Jackson family has been pretty tight lipped about the Congressman's current whereabouts and plans.
Jackson's ducking of the spotlight comes as federal authorities are investigating him for alleged "suspicious activity" in his finances. The Chicago Sun-Times quoted a source as saying investigators are "going down every rat hole" and that the FBI "is not yet finished digging."
From the Chicago Sun-Times: The federal probe, which began before Jackson took medical leave from Congress on June 10, first looked at activity in the congressman's campaign fund. But it has since gone into other areas, said the source, who would not elaborate. Broad, sweeping subpoenas were issued in the Jackson investigation, including on financial institutions that controlled Jackson accounts both in and out of Washington, D.C., the source said.
Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported last week that Jackson is in the midst of plea discussions. "No one has pled guilty, but plea discussions are ongoing," a source told Sneed.
It could take some time for a plea deal to materialize, especially considering that charges haven't even been filed yet.
The FBI probe is separate from the House ethics committee investigation into his dealings with imprisoned former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
It was Jackson's connections to Blagojevich that started the rising progressive congressman's stumble.
There were reports that Jackson and his associates discussed raising money for Blagojevich in exchange for the then-governor appointing Jackson to President Barack Obama's former senate seat. Blagojevich is now imprisoned on corruption charges, including having tried to sell the seat.
Both Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel have called on Jackson to tell his constituents about his post-election plans.
Jackson, who spent election night at the Mayo Clinic, issued a statement thanking his supporters and saying he was waiting for his doctors' OK before he could "continue to be the progressive fighter" they'd known for years.
No one questions the seriousness of bipolar disorder, and how it has affected his ability to govern.
But Jackson's constituents, who overwhelming supported him on November 6, before the plea deal bargaining became public, deserve to know what's going on.
If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Obama's Top Advisors Like Their Game Plan."
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