Rep. Jackson might face new Ethics probe

The House Ethics Committee could be probing a second allegation that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) broke House rules, according to the Chicago lawmaker.

Jackson, speaking before the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Monday, vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying that a campaign donor’s purchase of a plane ticket for a woman he had an extramarital affair with, though at his behest, did not break the chamber’s rules.

“[It was] not a personal benefit to me, I don't believe, under the House rules. A benefit to the person for whom he bought the ticket. He didn't buy tickets for me. Did I direct him? I did," said Jackson, according to the Chicago Tribune.

News of the affair and of Jackson’s request of longtime fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak to buy at least one ticket for the woman first surfaced in 2010 months before voters decided whether to send the veteran lawmaker back to Capitol Hill.

The secretive Ethics panel has also been investigating whether Jackson violated House rules by offering to pay former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich for President Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

Jackson has maintained his innocence. In December the House Ethics Committee moved to not empanel an investigative subcommittee to formally look into the matter, instead opting to continue probing the issue under committee rules without subpoena power.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) found “substantial reason to believe” that Jackson broke the chamber’s rules, according to an independent report by the OCE released last year, and referred the matter to the Ethics panel last year.

Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Jackson’s Democratic challenger, was also at the editorial board meeting on Monday and has repeatedly hit the longtime lawmaker on ethics issues, saying he is not fit to serve in office.

The Ethics Committee has made no indication that it is looking into alleged rules violations regarding Jackson’s push to fly the woman he had an affair with to Chicago from Washington, D.C.

But on Monday, as Jackson denied wrongdoing, he indicated that the panel might be investigating the issue in addition to the Blagojevich charges, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“[The] personal benefit does not extend to the idea of having broken a federal law,” said Jackson during the editorial board meeting. “It doesn't extend to the idea that remains before the committee to determine as to whether it constitutes a personal benefit to me, which is the House rule.”

Jackson said further that the purchase by Nayak of the plane ticket was “a friendly gesture” by “a close and dear friend of mine, one who knows members of my family, has worked with members of my family, has been a friend of our family's for a number of years,” according to the paper.

A spokesman for Jackson did not immediately return a request for comment. But Jackson aide Rick Bryant later gave the Chicago Tribune a formal statement from Jackson.

“I assume the committee will look into all matters and at the appropriate time will issue a report on its finding,” Jackson said in the statement to the paper. “I reiterate that I am confident that in the end I will be vindicated.”