Blagojevich Trial Stalls Jackson Jr.'s Political Ascent

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Byline: Sophia Tareen Associated Press

Jesse Jackson Jr. once possessed the makings of a political star. Son of a civil-rights leader and a Democratic congressman with a strong base of support on Chicago's South Side, he set his sights on becoming the city's mayor or a senator from Illinois.

Those dreams of higher political office have been dimmed -- perhaps irrevocably -- by Jackson's association with the corruption case of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. One damaging detail to emerge is that Jackson may have known about supporters' plans to raise at least $1 million on the condition that Blagojevich appoint him to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Of all the public figures whose names came up during the trial, Jackson has suffered the most political fallout. These days he keeps a low profile in his district, rarely appearing in public and avoiding the media -- especially when it comes to questions about Blagojevich.

"There's no doubt that his ambitions have taken a hit," Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green said. "Right now all his options are on hold."

Jackson, 45, has not been charged and denies wrongdoing, but there's little doubt he remains on the radar of federal prosecutors. A House ethics investigation of him, delayed at prosecutors' request, was scheduled to resume after the trial.

While his congressional seat appears safe in the November election -- he has won it since 1995 with more than 80 percent of the vote each time -- even Jackson's staunchest allies agree his reputation has suffered.

"An association with Blagojevich can be seen as toxic, but this is undeserved," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who was a national co-chair of the Obama presidential campaign with Jackson. "He's getting a raw deal."

Jackson's name has been tangled with Blagojevich's since the governor was arrested in December 2008 and charged with conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat, among other things.

Jackson admitted he was "Senate Candidate A," one of several people Blagojevich considered appointing. According to the criminal complaint, Jackson's supporters were willing to raise more than a million dollars for Blagojevich if he named Jackson to the seat. Jackson denied knowledge of the alleged offers.

At the trial, however, prosecutors said the state's former international trade director, Rajinder Bedi, told them Jackson was present at a meeting when Bedi and a businessman discussed fundraising for Blagojevich and Jackson's desire for the seat. …