Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd district
Incumbent Assumed office
December 12, 1995
Preceded by Mel Reynolds Personal details Born March 11, 1965
Greenville, South Carolina
Political party Democratic Spouse(s) Sandi Jackson Children Jessica Donatella
Jesse Louis III ("Tre")
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater NC A&T, B.S. magna cum laude, 1987
Chicago Theological Seminary, M.A., 1989
University of Illinois, J.D., 1993
Occupation politician, civil rights leader Religion Baptist Website Congressional site
Jesse Louis Jackson, Jr. (born March 11, 1965) is the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 2nd congressional district, serving since the special election in 1995. He is a member of the Democratic Party.
The district includes the part of the Southland southeast suburbs of Chicago and part of the Chicago South Side. He is the son of activist and former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. His wife, Sandi Jackson, serves on the Chicago City Council. He served as a national co-chairman of the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign.
Prior to elective politics Jackson was active in international civil rights activism. He participated in his father's presidential campaigns and then in the office of his Rainbow Coalition. During his time in public office he has co-authored three books, two of them with his father. Jackson has a consistent liberal record on both social and fiscal issues. His most important political issue has been the pursuit of the proposed Chicago south suburban airport to serve as a third major airport for the Chicago metropolitan area. He has been a very active Democratic spokesperson for other Democratic candidates and a popular interviewee and broadcast media guest. In his majority black district, he has generated broad-based support, which has repeatedly earned him re-election by wide 5-to-1 and 10-to-1 margins.
Prior to the selection of Roland Burris, Jackson had been mentioned as a possible appointee by Governor Rod Blagojevich for an interim United States Senator to replace Obama until the November 2010 election. Numerous press publications noted his supposed involvement in the Rod Blagojevich corruption investigation.
Jackson was born in Greenville, South Carolina four days after the Selma to Montgomery marches (known as Bloody Sunday). Raised in the Jackson Park Highlands District of the South Shore community area on the South Side of Chicago, he is one of five children of Jesse and Jacqueline Jackson: Santita is the oldest; Jesse Jr. is two years younger; Jonathan follows him by one year; Yusef and Jacqueline are five and ten years younger than Jonathan. He attended nursery school at the University of Chicago and, like all of his siblings, attended the John J. Pershing Public Elementary School. One of the earliest memories of Jesse, Jr. for Chicagoans was a speech he gave at age five from a milk crate at the Operation PUSH headquarters. He says that he was reared more by his mother, Jacqueline, although his father gave him lots of advice through the years. His father sought media attention to shed light on important issues according to some accounts and as a result of his father's travels, his time with his father often occurred in the time between meetings.
He and his brother Jonathan were sent to Le Mans Military Academy in Rolling Prairie, Indiana after Jackson was diagnosed hyperactive. He was often paddled for disciplinary reasons during his time as a cadet. Jacqueline wanted both boys to go to St. Albans in Washington, D.C. to spend more time with their father who was very active in that city. Although Jonathan decided to attend Whitney Young High School, a magnet school in Chicago, Jackson moved to Washington. Biographical content in A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights explains that the four-year foreign language requirement at St. Albans necessitated Jackson repeating the ninth grade and that he was suspended from school twice. According to younger brother Yusef, Jesse was responsible for changing several rules at the St. Albans dorms. He was an all-state running back on his football team in high school and his play got him into the February 13, 1984 issue of Sports Illustrated as part of their Faces In The Crowd section, which noted him for his 15 touchdowns, 889 rushing yards, and 7.2 yards per carry in six games. This issue is notable as the 1984 Swimsuit Issue. Then Jackson followed in his father's footsteps by attending North Carolina A&T where his father had been quarterback, class president and the successful suitor of Jacqueline. He took classes every summer, and he earned his Bachelor of Science degree magna cum laude from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1987. He received his college diploma along with his brother Jonathan in 1988 in a year where his father as a presidential candidate was a speaker. He decided to follow his father's advice and experience a seminary education at the Hyde Park based Chicago Theological Seminary, where he earned his master's degree a year early but opted not to become ordained. In 1989, he earned his M.A. from the Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago. Jackson proceeded to law school at the University of Illinois and convinced his future wife to transfer there from the Georgetown University Law Center. He then earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1993. Jackson never sat for the bar exam despite finishing his coursework a semester early.
Early political career
A teenage Jackson and his brother Jonathan assisted in their father's international civil rights activities. During the 1984 Democratic primaries, the three Jackson brothers sometimes appeared at events together in support of their father's presidential campaign. While in college, Jackson held a voter registration drive that registered 3,500 voters on a campus with 4,500 students. During the 1986 United States House of Representatives elections he got involved in politics outside his own family when he supported the return to office of Robin Britt, but first-term Congressman Howard Coble won re-election by less than 100 votes. Following these elective experiences, his first job after graduation was as an executive director for the Rainbow Coalition.
Jackson, Jr. was again involved in his father's campaigning during the 1988 Democratic Primaries. In 1988, in the dealings between Jesse Jackson and Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Jackson, Jr. was named an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by a nomination from Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk. At the convention, the elder Jackson had himself introduced at the podium by all five of his children, including Jr. Jackson, Jr. was the last of the five children and introduced his father with the words "a man who fights against the odds, who lives against the odds, our dad, Jesse Jackson." During the speech, Jackson, Jr. saved his father from an allergic reaction or asthma attack by taking action to block air conditioning vents that were blowing on him during his speech. At the time, in Time magazine, Margaret Carlson depicted the younger Jackson as a well-spoken and compelling personality who would likely carry any of his father's political aspirations that his father was unable to achieve himself. His experience with the DNC gave him the opportunity to work on numerous congressional election races. After the convention he also became a Vice President of Operation PUSH.
Jackson's earliest public controversy came when he was linked to alleged Nigerian drug trafficker Pius Ailemen. Ailemen was supposed to be Jackson's best man at his 1991 wedding, but canceled at the last minute due to supposed passport-related issues. Jackson's name and pictures were included in San Francisco, California press accounts of the arrest, which resulted from a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation. The investigation and court proceedings extended for several years. The wiretap included many conversations between the two and financial records indicate that Ailemen had purchased an Alfa Romeo using a $13,000 charge on Jackson's credit card. Ailemen was sentenced to 292 months in jail. In 2003, Ailemen was denied petition for a writ of certiorari. Mr. Ailemen's current motion questions Mr. Jackson's activities as a government informant at the time of his testimony in Ailemen's trial.
Jackson, Jr. spent his twenty-first birthday in a jail cell in Washington, D.C. following his participation in demonstrations against apartheid at the South African Embassy. It was not his first time being arrested for apartheid protest activity around his birthday: he was arrested with his father and brother the year before. His protest against apartheid extended to weekly demonstrations in front of the South African Consulate in Chicago. Jackson shared the stage with Nelson Mandela when Mandela made his historic speech following his release from a 27-year imprisonment in Cape Town in February 1990. Before entering the House, he became secretary of the Democratic National Committee's Black Caucus, the national field director of the National Rainbow Coalition and a member of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Jackson, Jr. served as the national field director of the Rainbow Coalition from 1993 to 1995. Under Jackson's leadership, the Rainbow Coalition attempted to stimulate equitable hiring in the National Basketball Association because while 78% of the league's players were African American, 92% of the front-office executive positions 88% of the administrative jobs and 85% of the support positions held by Caucasians. While serving as the field director for the National Rainbow Coalition, he registered millions of new voters through a newly instituted national non-partisan program. He also created a voter education program to teach citizens the importance of participating in the political process. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is also a founding board member of the Apollo Alliance.
November 29, 1995 Democratic Primary Ward/Township Jones Palmer Jackson Davis Morrow 6 12 8 33 4 1 7 1,254 684 2,486 112 13 9 2,444 360 3,044 149 14 10 386 141 367 14 3 15 294 151 783 25 3 16 57 11 124 11 1 17 1,256 306 2,729 141 13 18 1,376 312 2,398 167 3 19 225 70 280 16 0 21 2,490 414 3,432 336 4 34 4,973 460 4,911 248 12 City Totals 14,767 2,917 20,587 1,223 67 Bloom 1,596 757 1,231 39 54 Bremen 1,786 510 1,973 53 41 Calumet 990 111 502 19 6 Rich 1,352 914 1,479 38 30 Thornton 3,513 1,127 4,174 141 54 Worth 94 7 67 6 0 Suburban Totals 9,331 3,426 9,426 296 185 Overall Total 38,865 9,260 50,600 2,742 319
Sandi envisioned Jackson running for the 2nd congressional district seat in the Spring 1996 primary election. His father felt he should obtain experience at the local level as an alderman, or in the Illinois House of Representatives or Illinois Senate. Therefore, Jackson, Sr. approached Alice J. Palmer with a deal where they supported her for Congress and she support Jackson, Jr. for her seat in the Illinois Senate, but Jackson, Jr. did not agree with that plan. He felt if Patrick Kennedy was ready at age 26, then at age 30 he was ready. After seeking approval from former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Chicagoan David Wilhelm, he decided to run for the seat. Palmer ran and endorsed Barack Obama for her old seat.
When Mel Reynolds, who was later convicted on sex misconduct charges, announced his resignation from the Congress on September 1, 1995, Jackson's name was (along with Palmer) one of the first names to surface as a replacement. On September 10, 1995, Jackson officially announced his candidacy. Five Democrats, including Illinois State Senate minority leader Emil Jones, and four Republicans competed in the November 29, 1995 party primaries for the party nominations in the December 12, 1995 general election. Jones was endorsed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. In addition to Jones, Jackson's toughest competitor, the Democratic field included Illinois State Senator Alice Palmer, Illinois State Representative Monique Davis and businessman John Morrow. Jackson used a combination of multimedia, targeted marketing and an army of community activists to deliver his positive campaign messages. He also registered thousands of new voters. Jackson received no endorsements from the downtown daily newspapers (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and the black daily, Chicago Defender), but was endorsed by the Citizen, Daily Southtown, Markham, Illinois mayor, Evans Miller, and one local labor organization.
As part of his campaign he was the only candidate to embrace the third Chicago airport proposal being championed by Jim Edgar at the time. The proposed airport in Peotone, Illinois was in Will County and was outside of the congressional district (which then was entirely contained in Cook County), but with thousands of jobs that would result nearby, his region would be a large beneficiary. Jackson estimates the airport could bring the region nearly a quarter million jobs and with the multiplier effect on the economy the region would benefit by a half million jobs.
One of Jackson's most lasting memories from his first election came during a bipartisan televised debate. During Jackson's positive campaign, he had emphasized that his district would be better off keeping Jones in office at the state capital in Springfield and sending Jackson to Washington. Jones said that being a politician took more than crowd pleasing and rhyming. At the time, the Chicago Bulls had just lost the popular B. J. Armstrong in the 1995 Expansion draft to the Toronto Raptors and Michael Jordan had recently returned to basketball from playing minor league baseball. Jackson memorably stated, "I am not running against Emil Jones. I am trying to build a stronger team. B.J. should have never been traded; M.J. should have stayed in basketball; E.J. should stay in Springfield; and J.J. should be sent to Congress."
Jackson won the democratic party primary and since the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, he was the favorite for the special general election. The manner in which he won was interesting because although he lost two of the eleven city wards and three of the six townships, he won all the highest voter turnout regions (two largest townships and five largest wards) except the 34th ward, which was Jones' home base. The day after winning the primary, he received a congratulatory phone call from United States Vice President Al Gore who had also won his first election (representing Tennessee in the House of Representatives) in the shadow of his father, Albert Gore, Sr. who had represented Tennessee in Congress.
On the eve of the election, Gore attended a Jackson address. Jackson was campaigning in a district where his father was well-known. During this campaign, his lone controversy was the fact that his salary as field director the Rainbow Coalition had been subsidized by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, which was accused by a Senate investigating committee of having ties to organized crime. Nothing ever came of those accusations. Jackson won the general election against Republican Thomas Somer (76 percent to 24 percent). The victory had been widely anticipated. Upon his victory, Jackson made it known he would be a liberal voice in opposition to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and he was sworn in by Gingrich on December 15, 1995 before being introduced to the House by long-time Chicago congressman Sidney Yates. Jackson was perceived as less charismatic than his father and less credentialed than the Rhodes Scholar Reynolds, but his family pedigree was expected to help him open the doors that would enable him to serve the needs of his constituents effectively. In August 1996, Somer withdrew from a rematch leaving Jackson with no major party opposition. As a result, Jackson received 94% of the vote in the general election.
After being elected in the special general election, Jackson was one of many congressional politicians who received a donation from John Huang although Jackson did not know Mr. Huang. Jackson's donation was unexplained. Many recipients felt compelled to return the donations as a scandal erupted involving the true source of the funds. Eventually there was an Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Department of Justice interrogation of Mr. Huang concerning irregularities which seemed to relate to Jackson and Bill Clinton. Mr. Huang's $1,000 contribution to Jackson's campaign was within legal limits and Jackson attributed Mr. Huang's desire to contribute to the national media attention his campaign's positive message received.
Early congressional career
As a freshman congressman, Jackson quickly earned a reputation for his manners and decorum. Even when Jackson takes issue with the status quo, his deference to rules, political decorum, parliamentary procedure and personal principles shows through. Jackson's popularity on Capitol Hill also manifested itself very quickly. In his first nine months in office, he began to rival his father as a requested visitor to congressional districts with 36 requests from congressional colleagues. He was quickly immersed in efforts to help fellow Democrats on the campaign trail, where he is typically sent on the "black circuit" without any notification to the press. He was even chosen to represent Congress during a special week of television gameshow Jeopardy! In 1997, when Newsweek mentioned him in their list of 100 people to watch in the new century, dubbed "the Century Club", they praised both his oratorical skills and his popularity in Congress. They also raised the question of whether he would be the first black President. During the Clinton administration, Jackson voiced concern over patterns of compromising with the Republicans too often and voted in dissent on several notable bills that were the products of such compromise. Jackson quickly attempted to parlay his popularity into a seat on the United States House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure using the leverage of his ability to perform voter registration drives. By late 1996, it was speculated that if Carol Mosley-Braun agreed to drop out of the 1998 United States Senate elections, as she was being pressured to do for her support of controversial Nigerian military leader and politician Sani Abacha, that Jackson would consider running.
Jackson had some controversial interactions with Jewish leaders in his early years in office. In 1996, his message of unity and cooperation with the Jews was met with skepticism. In 1997, New York City Mayoral candidates Al Sharpton and Ruth Messinger had engaged in bickering about Louis Farrakhan's remarks about Judaism and Jews after Jackson commented on the issue in a way that was not favorably received. Nonetheless, Jackson remained a popular speaker, making 30 appearances for Democratic Congressional candidates in 1998 according to Minority Leader, Dick Gephart.
Much of Jackson's political ideology became clear to the public based on his early press appearances. Jackson developed a style in which he has focused his discussion on the economic impact of actions. He has believed that the majority of racial debate is about economics, which is better framed in terms of employment, growth, and the economy. Jackson preferred direct aid and debt relief to trade reform as a method of helping impoverished nations such as those of the sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean Basin. He feared relaxed trade regulations will have perverse economic incentives that benefit big business more than the needy and that it may even lead to exploitation of labor. The bill on this issue, which was sponsored by Charles Rangel, eventually became the African Growth and Opportunity Act and divided the 36-person Congressional Black Caucus with Jackson leading the 14 dissenting members. He is also an opponent of incentives for corporations to invest in developing nations. Jackson's objected to the aforementioned bill in part because it would not motivate adherence to internationally recognized core labor rights and proposed his own bill that "provided debt relief, worker rights and duty-free, quota-free access to the United States market for clothing made of African cloth". He was outspoken on issues of minority hiring in industries such as information technology.
At the time of the Impeachment of Bill Clinton at the beginning of 1999, Jackson was a proponent of having Clinton testify under oath to the American people. Jackson was also an opponent of investing Social Security money in the stock market at the same time.
Jackson quickly built a track record of never missing a floor vote. Once he nearly missed his great-grandmother's funeral for a roll call, but the presiding officer was able to slightly delay the closing the roll, thereby keeping his attendance record. When he does vote and debate he does so with a contentiousness that makes it difficult to view him as a team player according to Charles Rangel. Jackson has not only developed foes in the House, but also Mayor Daley has had a hand in several attempts to block Jackson such as objecting to both his committee seating and his doing a Chicago talk show, and Rush Limbaugh and the right-wing talk show hosts have targeted him. Daley has also been an opponent of the third Chicago airport which would diminish O'Hare International Airport. Supporters of the third airport project argue that O'Hare is over capacity, the additional airport would be a much-needed economic engine for the south suburbs and it can be built without public funding because investors are already lined-up.
Jackson's district was 65% black as well as one-third suburban when he first assumed responsibility for it and many of the suburban constituents had moved from the city. After the 2002 redistricting following the 2000 Census, Jackson's resulting 650,000-constituent district remains predominately black. Jackson has established a heavily liberal voting record on both social and fiscal issues, and he has not been seriously challenged since his first election. Because of his name recognition and liberal track record, Jackson is besieged with public speaking requests, television appearance request, and requests for political commentary on issues of current affairs and liberal causes, and although he declines many, he recognizes his roles is to propagate his liberal message.
In 1998, Gore attempted to maintain good relations with the Jackson family with an eye on the 2000 elections, hoping to keep the elder Jackson from causing minorities to support other candidates if Gore decided to run. Gore even advised and campaigned for Jackson, Jr. on a trip to Chicago and issued instructions to his aides to create the "vice presidential effect" in Jackson's district. By December 1999, Jackson, Jr. was displeased with and critical of each potential Democratic nominees (Hillary Clinton, Gore and Bill Bradley) who were not as liberal as he would like.
At the 2000 Democratic National Convention, Jackson Jr. was notable for his lackluster support for Democratic presidential nominee Gore; as a representative of the left wing of the Democratic Party, he endorsed the Gore/Joseph I. Lieberman ticket as a matter of pragmatism despite its disconcerting centrist policies, because he feared the Bush/Dick Cheney ticket and felt even the disillusioned should avoid the Ralph Nader Green Party option. The elder Jackson agreed and compared his endorsement of Gore with intaking castor oil. At this convention, Jesse Jackson, Sr. gave a memorable introduction for Jesse Jackson, Jr. Despite the tepid support from Jackson, Jr., he was still considered a likely United States Secretary of Education in the event of a Gore Presidency.
Jackson won reelection in the 2000 House of Representatives elections by a 90–10 margin over Robert Gordon. When George W. Bush seemed destined to become United States President after the tumultuous 2000 presidential election, Jackson, one of Bush's harshest critics, realized that despite having only received 8% of the Black vote, Bush was going to attempt to court the black vote rather than pay it some sort of retribution. As word spread that Bush intended to appoint both Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and a third unnamed black to the United States Cabinet, Jackson recognized very quickly that Republican leaders such as Newt Gingrich had expressed the sentiment that the Republicans could achieve political dominance with a 15% share of the Black vote and would for this reason probably attempt to curry favor with the blacks by making favorable appointments. Jackson was one of the liberal leaders who was at the National Press Club meetings to plot strategy after Bush actually assumed control.
First partnering with Henry Hyde, Jackson has been trying to pursue the proposed Chicago south suburban airport since he assumed office. Jackson referred to the Republican Hyde as the right wing complement to his own left wing role in pursuing support for the airport. The 3rd Chicago airport has been supported by Illinois Governors Edgar, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. The efforts to promote the proposed airport had sputtered for twenty years before Jackson got involved. Then on June 4, 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration authorized a master plan. Jackson has withheld support for local Democrats who would not support the airport, such as 1998 Democratic Illinois Governor nominee Glenn Poshard.
In 2004 Jackson, stood behind the Ho-Chunk tribe's proposal for a casino within his district in Lynwood, Illinois. The proposal was to build the largest casino in the state as part of an entertainment complex. Local residents who fear the change to the neighborhood had contested the plan, but Lynwood Mayor at the time supported by the plan because of the prospect of new job creation. The Ho-Chunk tribe has already built numerous casinos in Wisconsin. Also in 2004, Jackson was one of the politicians that Meg Whitman met with in an effort to ensure that internet sales continue to be free of sales tax. He also noted his support for granting Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion in boxing, a presidential pardon.
In 2005, Jackson along with co-sponsor John Kerry wrote and shepherded a bill designating $370,000 for the design, creation and acquisition of a life-size statue of Rosa Parks (who died October 24, 2005) to be placed in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol. The bill was signed by President Bush on December 1, 2005 with funds earmarked for use prior to December 1, 2007. Parks' statue will be the first commission of a full-sized statue authorized and funded by the U.S. Congress since the 1870s. Parks will become the first black woman to have a statue in Statuary hall. On March 11, 2008, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that they would manage a design competition for the statue and that the Chrysler Foundation would support the competitions with a $100,000 grant.
Jackson has been very active in funding AIDS service organizations through congress in support of efforts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People following moves by the Congressional Black Caucus.
During the 2002 Democratic primary for Jackson's 2nd District congressional seat, Jackson claimed that Illinois State Senator William Shaw, who would later become Dolton Mayor, and his brother, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Robert Shaw, had planted a bogus candidate in the primary race. The claim was that they selected 68-year-old retired Robbins truck driver, "Jesse L. Jackson", as an opponent in order to confuse voters and derail the congressman's re-election campaign. Although no criminal wrongdoing was found, the Jackson from Robbins withdrew his candidacy after the unexpected death of his wife was followed by his 19-year-old grandson's death during football tryouts at Northern Illinois University.
In 2001, the Federal Election Commission ruled that Jackson could hire his wife on his campaign payroll. The ruling stated that relatives can be employed as long as they were compensated "no more than the fair market value" for their services. Many other lawmakers have made similar arrangements without contacting the FEC for a ruling. When House Majority Leader Tom Delay was charged with ethical infractions, matters such as these came to light.
When Jackson decided not to run in the 2004 United States Senate election, he became one of Barack Obama's early supporters. He also became an early supporter of Howard Dean for the 2004 United States Democratic presidential nomination. The nomination was a bitter blow to the hopes of Al Sharpton who had hoped for endorsements from both Jackson, Jr. and Jackson, Sr. Jackson's nomination corroborated Al Gore's endorsement of Dean as the most likely of the ten candidates to beat President Bush, and it came despite two African Americans (Al Sharpton and Carol Mosley Braun, a fellow Illinoisan) in the field. Jackson was one of nearly three dozen House of Representatives endorsers of Dean.
The 2004 elections contributed to his joint support, with the Congressional Black Caucus, for election reform. He dislikes the way election rules differ across jurisdictions, saying that our country "is founded on the constitutional foundation of 'states' rights'—50 states, 3,067 counties and 13,000 different election jurisdictions, all separate and unequal." He was one of the 31 who voted in the House not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election. He also proposed legislation for uniform voting standards that was supported by black leaders.
Jackson won reelection in the 2004 House of Representatives elections by a wide margin over Stephanie Kennedy Sailor. In 2005 Jackson supported legislation that gave the United States Federal Court of Appeals jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case. In advance of the 2006 House of Representatives elections, with the 2008 presidential election on the horizon, Jackson was a proponent of having Bill Clinton on the campaign trail. He felt Clinton might help the Democratic candidates reach out toward Black voters. During the 2006 House of Representatives elections among Jackson's opponents was Libertarian Party candidate and African-American pastor Anthony Williams who was an opponent of immigration.
In December 1999, he co-authored It's About the Money: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams. The book is a self-help book with directions for achieving personal financial independence. The book is targeted toward people of limited means. In the fall of 2001, he co-authored Legal Lynching: The Death Penalty and America's Future, also known as Legal Lynching II. With coauthors, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jackson, Jr., and Bruce Shapiro, the anti-death penalty voice was heard very publicly. The book was published at a time when public opposition to the death penalty was at a historically high level by two of America's most prominent civil rights leaders. It was a follow up to Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice and the Death Penalty, which was released in 1996 by Jackson, Sr. In 2001, Jackson, Jr. authored A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights, with his press secretary, Frank Watkins. The book outlines his moral and political philosophies, and it provides an autobiographical sketch. It provides analysis on the link between race and economics from colonial America to the present with a vision for the future. In addition to the analysis, it provides eight proposed constitutional amendments that Jackson sees as essential to pursuit of broader social and economic opportunity. Since the publication of this book, Jackson has refined these and formally proposed these constitutional amendments.
In March 2005, he revealed that he had lost 50 pounds (22.7 kg; 3.6 st) due to gastric bypass surgery. In Ebony, Joe Madison revealed that when he and Jackson were on a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation conference he asked Jackson why he looked so different. He stated that Jackson described having undergone a duodenal switch medical procedure that his sister, Santita, had used to lose 200 pounds (90.7 kg; 14.3 st) over several years.
2006–07 Mayoral race
Chicago is the largest American city without mayoral term limits, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley started his mayoral tenure in 1989. Jackson is less attracted to the limelight of the media than his father and rarely holds press conferences. After making a formal announcement in 2006 with a press conference, Jackson was considered a strong potential candidate to oppose Daley in the February 27, 2007 municipal election. He stated on September 7, 2006 that his final decision would come after the Congressional election in November. Jackson had built up a more moderate reputation than his father and had support that transcended racial lines. Jackson views his broad based support as a sign that the U.S. is advancing to the point where politicians from ethnic minorities can appeal to broad constituencies.
After more than a decade in the national political spotlight he had maintained an untarnished image, unlike his troubled 2nd district predecessors Mel Reynolds and Gus Savage, and had challenged Daley on several issues on the local political scene. Jackson has supported the living wage legislation that had been hotly contested in the Chicago City Council, and he has been an ardent backer of the long-proposed third Chicago airport in Peotone, Illinois, placing him at odds with Daley on both issues. He also railed against Daley over a trucking contract scandal involving city workers' collecting payoffs. At the time, the Mayor had recently exercised the first veto in his seventeen year mayoral term to thwart a big box retailer city minimum wage bill from the City Council despite the bill's public popularity.
There were always doubts about the seriousness of Jackson's interest in the Mayors office. On November 8, 2006, Jackson reported that he would not pursue a 2007 mayoral campaign in Chicago:
“ [...] as you know Democrats are now poised to take control of the Congress for the first time in my eleven year career. More than any time since I took my initial oath of office, I am excited, I am eager, and I am downright giddy about the prospects of being in Washington. Washington will be the place to be in the next two years, and maybe even the foreseeable future. For me this means an unprecedented opportunity to help lead this country in a new and a better direction and to help serve my constituents, my hometown of Chicago and my state of Illinois. So I will not be a candidate for the mayor of the city of Chicago in 2007. ”
Emancipation Hall Bill Images
Jackson and Zach Wamp were spokespersons for the changing the name of the main hall of the United States Capitol Visitor Center from the Great Hall to Emancipation Hall. The Library of Congress's main hall was already designated Great Hall. Some had wanted further feedback on naming possibilities, but the United States House Committee on Appropriations approved the proposed new name. On November 13, 2007, the House of Representatives approved the renaming of the Hall in a roll call vote that was requested by Eleanor Holmes Norton. The name is symbolic of the struggle against slavery, and the contribution of slaves in building the Capitol. Dianne Feinstein is a co-sponsor of the companion legislation in the Senate.
Jackson has continued to pursue support for the eight constitutional amendments outlined in his book A More Perfect Union. Jackson has been proposing the eight amendments since the 107th United States Congress when the Public Education amendment (H.J.RES.31) obtained 29 co-sponsors and the Health Care amendment obtained 10 (H.J.RES.29). In the 108th United States Congress all of the amendments had co-sponsors, and those with the most were the Right to Vote (H.J.RES.28) with 45, the Public Education of Equal High Quality (H.J.RES.29) with 37, Health Care of Equal High Quality (H.J.RES.30) with 35. Support peaked in the 109th United States Congress with 61, 35 and 35 co-sponsors respectively for these same amendments. On February 13, 2007, he proposed the eight amendments again in the 110th United States Congress; the amendment regarding the right to vote has accumulated 51 co-sponsors, and was referred to the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties on March 1, 2007. The amendment regarding the right of citizens of the United States to health care of equal high quality (H.J.RES.30) also has a few sponsors.
Jackson is one of the liberal leaders who supports a fixed timetable for Iraq troop withdrawals. In 2007, he has also co-sponsored (along with Roy Blunt), legislation providing nearly $1 million dollars to each family that lost someone to the al-Qaida activities in the 1998 United States embassy bombings.
In 2007 Jackson voiced an interest in having Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initiate impeachment proceedings against the President Bush for "crimes against the Constitution of the United States."
Jackson feels that America has moved forward, based in large part on his own experiences where he has seen political rhetoric change its tone in Chicago. He had felt that then-incumbent congressman Harold Ford who was running for reelection would overcome the Bradley effect in the 2006 Tennessee Senate election. Jackson represents a state that has elected Carol Mosley-Braun as the first black female senator and Barack Obama as a senator. He also serves in a city where over the last thirty years Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan have replaced Al Capone as the personalities most closely associated with the city. Although Jackson's experiences may have seemed unique to his environment, Ford lost by the same slim margin predicted by advance polling that accurately accounted for the percentage of white voters indicating their predisposition. Several other 2006 biracial contests saw pre-election polls predict their respective elections' final results with similar accuracy.
In the February 27, 2007 Chicago municipal elections, Jackson's wife, Sandi Jackson, won the election for Alderman in Chicago's 7th ward. Also, in February 2007, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. In March 2007, Jackson became an early Barack Obama supporter in his presidential bid, and he serves as a national co-chairman of the Barack Obama presidential campaign. As such, he is involved in garnering support from the superdelegates. During the campaign, he provided the voice for some advertisements such as one South Carolina radio ad in which he said: "Once, South Carolina voted for my father, and sent a strong message to the nation,...Next year, you can send more than a message. You can launch a president.'" When describing Obama he stated that "Barack Obama is not speaking as a friend of the community; he's part of the community...He doesn't always tell people what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear.'" During the campaign, he described Obama as the first successor of Martin Luther King, Jr. to use the thoughtful and careful approach to language to frame social debate in a way that is unlikely to alienate whites and noted his ability to get various factions to agree with him and his political positions.
Jackson has a lengthy relationship with Barack Obama. Barack's Illinois State Senate 13th district that he served from January 8, 1997–November 4, 2004 was within Jackson's Congressional district. Now, the role is reversed with Jackson's 2nd district within Obama's statewide United States Senate jurisdiction. The two have collaborated on issues, stood together against the party slate on certain reform-minded candidates and sought each other's advice. Additionally, Jackson's sister Santita was a close friend of Michelle Obama and served as a bridesmaid at the Obama wedding. Despite their shared name, the younger Jackson has shown political and philosophical differences from his father. For example, when in 2008 Jackson Sr. wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times attacking presidential candidate Barack Obama for his lack of activist involvement, Jackson Jr. responded sharply in the same paper with a defense of Obama.
On July 6, 2008, Jackson, Sr. said he thought Obama talks down to black people, and unaware he was near a live microphone offhandedly commented that he would like to "cut [Obama's] nuts off". Jackson, Jr. quickly expressed his outrage at and disappointment in his father's "ugly rhetoric". The Reverend later apologized for his remarks and reiterated his support for Obama. Jackson was expressing his disappointment in Obama's Father's Day speech chastisement of Black fathers. Jackson, Jr. issued a statement that said "Reverend Jackson is my dad, and I’ll always love him. . .I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself." Jackson, Jr. took the statements very seriously because he had worked so hard as the National co-chair of the Barack Obama presidential campaign.
Jesse Jackson Jr. gave a prime-time speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, on Monday August 25, 2008. During his speech he referenced Martin Luther King, Jr. stating, "I'm sure that Dr. King is looking down on us here in Denver noting this is the first political convention in history to take place within sight of a mountain top." The speech detailed how the challenges of the socio-political landscape have changed across generations. Also during his speech, on the same night that Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama addressed the convention, he said "I know Barack Obama. I've seen his leadership at work. I've seen the difference he has made in the lives of people across Illinois." At the convention, Jackson started what was described as a hugfest in an attempt to unite the Illinois Democratic party, which has been squabbling internally. He started by hugging Bobby Rush (who had been upset that Jackson's wife was being positioned for Rush's seat when Rush had been ill earlier in the year) and then he hugged Debbie Halvorson, who as been at odds with him over the proposed airport. He then asked if anyone else was mad at him. At this point Mayor Daley jumped up to hug Jackson. Jackson then said "I'm not going to be satisfied until I see Rod Blagojevich give Mike Madigan a hug."
Before the entire congress was charged with seeking a solution to the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and overall economic crisis of 2008, Jackson proposed that the United States Department of Agriculture increase the allotment of food stamps. During the congressional debates on a federal bailout, Jackson worried about the viability of various plan iterations to his constituents. Although only two years earlier he spoke of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in glowing terms, he could not support the late-September version of the legislation she was proposing because he felt it contained inadequate homeowner protections. Although he voted against the bill on September 29, 2008 he voted in support of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 on October 3, 2008. He later expressed concerns in a New York Times op-ed article about the implications that the eventual bill had on enfranchisement due to the lack of protections for homeowners as it relates to voting rights.
Potential U.S. Senate seat
Jackson had emerged as a possible candidate to replace Barack Obama, who, after being elected President of the United States on November 4, 2008, officially resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate effective November 16. The class 3 Illinois Senate seat is up for re-election in 2010. Other contenders include Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky, Tammy Duckworth, Emil Jones, Jr., Kwame Raoul, Dan Hynes, and Lisa Madigan. Some sources also mentioned Luis Gutierrez and Melissa Bean. One early name mentioned, Valerie Jarrett, withdrew her name from consideration and both Davis and Duckworth noted that they had not been contacted by the governor's office by the time Obama announced his resignation on November 13, 2008. In a radio interview on the subject, Jackson cited his record on federal funding for his district, loyalty to Obama and diligence in voting in the U.S. House. Obama was the only black U.S. Senator, and black leaders have been pressuring Blagojevich to appoint a black successor. The Chicago Defender and Southtown Star have both endorsed Jackson who notes that public opinion polls show him as the favorite. The selection was coming at a time when the Governor's public approval ratings were at an all-time low, which added to the pressure for him to make a selection that would be good for his own political perception, and it was believed that Jackson's constituency was one that the Governor might need to appease. Although Obama and Duckworth laid a wreath together on Veterans Day, Obama has not endorsed a successor. It should be noted, however, that in an internal report filed by Obama legal advisor Greg Craig that "Obama authorized Emanuel to pass on the names of four people he considered to be highly qualified to take over his seat — Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, Illinois Veterans’ Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr."
On November 27, 2008, Blagojevich hinted that Davis might be his choice. On December 6, the Chicago Tribune reported that Jackson was among the minority of potential candidates who had not been granted a meeting with Blagojevich on the subject, but two days later Blagojevich granted Jackson a meeting. On December 9, the day after a 90-minute meeting that Jackson described as his first meeting with Blagojevich in years, the Rod Blagojevich federal corruption scandal became public when the Governor was arrested. On December 10, Jackson was contacted by federal prosecutors for questioning with regard to the scandal involving Governor Blagojevich's search for a replacement. The press speculated that Jackson was "Senate Candidate #5", for whom it is alleged by Blagojevich that emissaries offered up to a million dollars in exchange for the appointment. Jackson, however, denies any wrongdoing, and says that the U.S. Attorney's office assured him that he is not a target of the investigation. In a press conference, his lawyer confirmed his belief that Jackson is candidate #5, but asserted that he has done nothing wrong. Immediately thereafter, in his own news conference, Jackson confirmed that he is a subject and not a target of the investigation and emphatically stated his opposition to "pay to play" politics. On December 16, a Jackson spokesperson confirmed special federal investigators have been questioning him since the summer. Also WLS-TV reported December 15 that Jackson has notified investigators that Blagojevich refused to appoint Sandi Jackson, his wife, as state lottery director because Jackson refused to donate $25,000 to the governor's campaign fund. Jackson spokesman Kenneth Edmonds clarified that although Jackson had been a federal informant for over a decade, never did his cooperation concern the current investigation into the Senate seat.
Although Blagojevich's alleged corruption is widely reported to have been under federal investigation for years, Howard Fineman reportedly has sources that claim Jackson attributes the Obama replacement case to Obama's neutral stance on whom to replace him with. According to his source, Jackson feels if Obama had endorsed Jackson, Blagojevich would have selected Jackson. When the scandal first broke, the reaction was that Jackson's reputation was sullied to the point that his viability as a senatorial candidate was diminished. However, reports that Jackson has been a longtime federal information provider has led political allies to continue to speak of his viability as a candidate. After much controversy, Roland Burris was successfully nominated by Blagojevich.
In 2009, Jackson was named one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress by the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for his role in the scandal. On September 21, 2010, Jackson said of his affair with Peruvian Giovana Huidobro: "is a private and personal matter between me and my wife " (Associated Press). The Peruvian hostess was flown to Chicago twice by political fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak one month before the 2008 November election in a bid to see if Jackson would pony up $6 million in exchange for an Illinois senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama.
In September 2010, fundraiser Nayak was mentioned in the press as having been an alleged go between for Jackson and Blagojevich with the message that Jackson would help Blagojevich raise $6 million in exchange for the Senate appointment. The allegations were given little credence.
When Jackson entered Congress, he sought a seat on the United States House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in order to shepherd the third Chicago Airport. However, allies of Mayor Daley, such as Illinois' 3rd congressional district Congressman Bill Lipinski, blocked his nomination and he was relegated to the United States House Committee on Financial Services. During the 106th United States Congress, Dick Gephardt supported his seating on the United States House Committee on Appropriations.
- Committee on Appropriations
Jackson was also appointed to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in 2003 by the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives. He is among the scholars and politicians adding commentaries to Lincoln in Illinois which was published in the by the Abraham Lincoln Association and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. The book had been expected in the fall, but was published in June 2008.
Jackson is a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. In 2006, when Jackson became a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Nu Pi Chapter, the Illinois House of Representatives issued a congratulatory resolution to his father. Jesse Sr. is also a member of the Omega fraternity. Jackson, Jr. delivered the keynote address to the fraternity at the November 18, 2006 Founder's Day gathering. He is also affiliated with the Theta Epsilon Chapter.
During the 1988 presidential campaign, Jackson met his future wife, Sandi Stevens, who was press secretary for United States Congressman Mickey Leland. After her first year at Georgetown University Law Center, the couple decided public schooling was more affordable and jointly enrolled at the University of Illinois College of Law. While still law students, they got married on June 1, 1991. Jackson and Sandi now have two children, Jesse III ("Tre") and Jessica and keep two homes. They own one in the South Shore community area, which is within both the 2nd district that Congressman Jackson represents in the United States House of Representatives and within the seventh ward that his wife represents on the Chicago City Council as Alderman. The South Shore home serves as an election base for himself and candidates he has supported, for which he claims a 13–0 record in public elections. The South Shore home was the featured renovation on an HGTV Hidden Potential episode, first aired on March 24, 2009. The Jacksons also own a home in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., which serves as the family home and base for his service in Congress.
Jackson acknowledges that he has had the benefits of privilege and opportunity and says that his hobbies include fencing, hunting and fishing, especially salmon fishing. He often enjoys these hobbies in bipartisan friendships that include Dick Armey and regarded the late Republican Rep. Henry Hyde as one of his closest friends. In fact, Armey points to Jackson as an example of his ability to work with politicians at all ends of the political spectrum. Jackson also has a very good relationship with Republican United States President George W. Bush despite their sharp ideological differences. The relationship traces back to when Jackson Sr. and United States President-Elect George H. W. Bush met to discuss a range of issues while Jackson Jr. and his siblings Santita and Jonathan had an hour and a half luncheon with future president George W. He also developed a relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton that enabled him to watch Super Bowl XXXIII at Camp David with them.
Jackson is a martial arts enthusiast, who practices Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, and Karate. On August 1, 2007, Jackson got into a verbal disagreement with Rep. Lee Terry, a Republican from Nebraska on the House floor. Jackson stated in floor debate that "Republicans can't be trusted" and Terry responded with "shut up" before approaching Jackson. Jackson then spoke profanities and challenged Terry to step outside, presumably for a physical fight. Steve Rothman helped avoid escalation to actual physical confrontation. Martial artists throughout the Omaha, Nebraska area (Terry's district) called to inquire about Jackson's mindset and intentions. Jackson says Terry was the instigator. Terry says Jackson was at fault, but the two shook hands the next day and agreed to move forward in the interest of their constituents. However, a week later an unidentified man who claimed to be a Jackson relative walked into Terry's Omaha office saying he was Jackson's hitman who had come to beat up Terry, which led to FBI involvement. Although the story was covered in the Washington Post, and Omaha World-Herald, neither the Chicago Tribune nor the Chicago Sun-Times covered any part of the story.
Jackson uses a battery-powered GPS-equipped Segway in Washington. Jackson, who missed two votes in his first thirteen years in Congress, quipped that the Segway helps him to maintain his good voting record.
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Jackson, Jesse L., Jr., with Frank E. Watkins, A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights.., ISBN 1-56649-186-X, Welcome Rain Publishers: New York, 2001.
- U.S. Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. official U.S. House site
- Jesse Jackson, Jr. Congressman official campaign site
- Biography at WhoRunsGov.com at The Washington Post
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Voting record maintained by The Washington Post
- Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart
- Congressional profile at GovTrack
- Congressional profile at OpenCongress
- Issue positions and quotes at On The Issues
- Current Bills Sponsored at StateSurge.com
- Financial information at OpenSecrets.org
- Staff salaries, trips and personal finance at LegiStorm.com
- Campaign finance reports and data at the Federal Election Commission
- Campaign contributions at the National Institute for Money in State Politics
- Appearances on C-SPAN programs
- Collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Profile at SourceWatch
- Biography at Answers.com
- Interview: Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Buzzflash, December 30, 2002
- Jackson Jr., Jesse The Right to Vote, The Nation, January 19, 2006
United States House of Representatives Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd congressional district
United States order of precedence Preceded by
United States Representatives by seniority
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