Former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) will plead guilty to conspiring with his wife to illegally spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, including a $43,000 Rolex watch, fur coats and memorabilia associated with Michael Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Bruce Lee, according to information obtained by POLITICO.
The charges against him may include conspiracy, making false statements, and mail and wire fraud.
Prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence of between 46 and 57 months for Jackson Jr., as well as a fine of $10,000 to $100,000, and forfeiture of a yet-to-be-determined portion of the misspent $750,000 in campaign funds.
Jackson’s wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, is expected to plead guilty to a tax offense, according to a source close to the investigation. At different times, she has served as her husband’s campaign manager and campaign treasurer. Both Jacksons resigned from office amid the Justice Department’s investigation into their finances.
Lawyers for the Jacksons could not be reached immediately for comment.
If true, the allegations against the Jacksons represent a breathtaking scheme to re-appropriate donors’ money to finance trips and luxuries, pay bills and even send the couple’s children to school. Unlike many scandals that have ensnared elected officials, this brazen tale of personal enrichment doesn’t involve public money.
It’s a story of a Chicago power couple that lost track of the line between campaign cash and personal funds in a spiral of money troubles. The government will allege the Jacksons lied on campaign finance and House financial disclosure forms to cover up the fact that they were using campaign money to build a lifestyle way beyond their means. Federal investigators sank their teeth into the couple, even conducting an apparent sting operation in Aug. 2012. An undercover employee bought two mounted elk heads that Jackson Jr. had bought from a Montana taxidermist using campaign funds.
The $750,000 in misspent campaign funds included thousands of individual transactions that ranged from airplane tickets, booze and cigars to groceries.
The government allegations lay out a scheme in which the Jacksons directly used campaign funds for expenditures and used campaign credit cards to shield some of the transactions and relied on middle men to cover their tracks.