U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to emphatically deny involvement in Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged “pay-to-play” scheme to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat.
A lawyer for Jackson acknowledged earlier Wednesday that the Illinois Democrat is the so-called Senate Candidate 5 in the federal complaint against Blagojevich. Though the affidavit says Blagojevich named Senate Candidate 5 as an individual potentially willing to raise money for him in exchange for Obama’s seat, Jackson said he was assured by federal prosecutors Tuesday that he is not a target of the investigation.
“I want to make this fact plain. I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing,” Jackson said at the press conference in Washington, D.C., calling on the governor to resign. “I did not initiate or authorize anyone at anytime to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf.”
Jackson’s attorney, James D. Montgomery Sr., said Wednesday that Jackson learned he was mentioned in the complaint against Blagojevich the night before the governor’s arrest on Tuesday.
According to the affidavit, in a Dec. 4 recording of Blagojevich with an unnamed adviser and unnamed fundraiser, the governor says he may be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provides Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.”
The affidavit says an associate of Candidate 5 discussed raising $500,000, and then another $1 million, for Blagojevich. But Montgomery suggested Jackson could have been set up, and said he wasn’t aware of any associates making such a proposal.
“I wouldn’t put it past someone to be purporting to represent Jesse without authority,” Montgomery said. He said Jackson is still interested in filling Obama’s open Senate seat.
Meanwhile, Obama has called on Gov. Blagojevich to resign. Spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president-elect agrees with other prominent politicians that “under the current circumstances, it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois.”
In response to questions from The Associated Press, Gibbs said Obama believes the Illinois legislature should consider a special election to fill the seat.