Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has endorsed Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), whose reelection bid has been plagued by an ethics investigation.
Pelosi joins President Obama and several other top Democrats in their endorsement of the Chicago lawmaker as he goes up against former Democratic Rep. Debbie Halvorson (Ill.) in a fierce primary battle next month.
Though Halvorson has raised only one-fifth the amount of money that Jackson has, she has waged a relentless campaign against the incumbent lawmaker, frequently pointing to the House Ethics Committee’s ongoing investigation in an attempt to sway voters.
And Pelosi is scheduled to appear with Jackson at an event next month ahead of his March 20 primary, according to his campaign.
Separate political action committees associated with Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have each given the maximum amount — $5,000 — to Jackson, in addition to Pelosi’s $2,000 individual contribution. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson (Conn.) — the fourth ranking Democrat in the lower chamber — also gave Jackson $2,000.
Larson and Pelosi’s donations were made in the weeks directly after the House Ethics Committee voted to continue its investigation of Jackson over allegations that he may have tried to buy Obama’s former Senate seat from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). And the DCCC held a fundraiser for Jackson less than two weeks after the ethics panel’s announcement.
Jackson has touted Obama’s endorsement, although the president has not made a public statement to that effect, which has caused some to wonder how firm his support of Jackson really is.
But an Obama campaign spokesman cleared up any misguided notions this week, telling The Hill that, “The president supports the congressman and has endorsed him.”
Jackson has raised nearly $500,000 so far, compared to Halvorson, who has brought in only about $100,000, none of which is from members of Congress.
Pelosi, Larson, and many other leading Democrats supported Halvorson in her successful 2008 bid for Illinois’ 11th district seat, which was vacated by retiring Rep. Jerry Weller (R). She raised more than $2.3 million dollars in that election cycle.
But Halvorson was not facing an incumbent Democrat primary challenger in that election, and top lawmakers typically endorse their incumbent colleagues over challengers from the same party. One of the only exceptions to that trend occasionally occurs when an incumbent member is facing ethics troubles and members don’t want to be associated with them.
For more than two years, the House Ethics Committee deferred its consideration of the allegations that Jackson used public resources to promote his appointment for the seat while the Justice Department completed its investigation of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was convicted last year on 17 of the 20 corruption charges — centering on his attempt to sell the Senate seat for which he was tasked with appointing a successor.
In December, the ethics panel voted to continue its probe of Jackson’s involvement in the scandal, though it did not move to impanel an investigative subcommittee and formally investigate the lawmaker.
At the time of the ethics panel’s decision to continue the probe, a report by the Office of Congressional was released, stating that there was “probable cause” that Jackson may have offered to buy the seat.
Additionally Jackson told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board earlier this month that the ethics committee may also be looking into his role in the purchase of a plane ticket by one of his campaign donor’s for a woman Jackson was having an extramarital affair with years ago.
Jackson has maintained his innocence all along on both matters.
Halvorson voted with Democrats more than 90 percent of the time, including her vote for Obama’s healthcare reform measure, according to records.