A report Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times claims a major Democratic fundraiser has implicated Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) in an alleged scheme to gain an appointment to the Senate from disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.).
The paper reports that businessman and Democratic fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak has told federal authorities that Jackson authorized him to offer Blagojevich campaign cash in exchange for an appointment to President Obama's former Senate seat.
From the Sun-Times:
The allegation by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak counters public statements made as recently as last week by Jackson that he never authorized any deal to attempt to buy the Senate seat.
Nayak also told authorities he paid for two airline trips for a "social acquaintance" of the Democratic congressman at Jackson's request, raising more potential ethical and political problems for Jackson.
The FBI interviewed that acquaintance — a Washington, D.C., restaurant hostess named Giovana Huidobro — about a year ago as part of its corruption probe of Blagojevich. Authorities were trying to determine whether Jackson had asked Nayak to offer Blagojevich campaign cash in exchange for the then-governor appointing Jackson to the seat once held by President Obama, according to sources with knowledge of the probe.
Huidobro, Jackson and Nayak all dined together on Oct. 8, 2008 — the same day that Nayak has told authorities he had a key conversation with Jackson about the Senate appointment, sources said. The three then ended up at Ozio, the restaurant and club where Huidobro works and where Jackson has held fund-raisers.
Jackson has denied any wrongdoing in connection to the case, telling prosecutors last week to "bring it on" if they had any evidence tying him to Blagojevich scandal.
Jackson is mulling a bid for Chicago mayor in the wake of Mayor Richard Daley's announcement that he won't run again. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emnanuel is also a potential mayoral contender.