A possible run by Rahm Emanuel has garnered most of the headlines, but
Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is also said to be eying the Chicago's
mayor's office. Or at least he was, prior to an explosive report in
Sun-Times that Jackson and fundraiser Raghuveer Nayuk plotted to
funnel $6 million in campaign cash to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in
return for an appointment to Barack Obama's old Senate seat. The story
also claims Nayuk told federal authorities he twice was made to pay the
travel expenses of a female "social acquaintance" of Jackson's.
The feature would appear to be a body blow for Jackson, who just last week advised investigators to "bring it on" when asked during a local radio appearance about a potential corruption investigation. Around the Internet, voices wondered whether the Jackson family's political clout was enough to maintain the eight-term congressman's political viability:
- Uphill Battle In the rough-and-tumble of Illinois politics, the allegations of professional and personal impropriety render Jackson an easy target for the state's experienced political hands, writes NPR's Frank James. Despite denying the corruption allegations, Jackson's statement about having caused "disappointment and pain" in his marriage casts a "rather sizable cloud" over his mayoral prospects. Scandal is nothing new in Illinois, concedes James, but the ham-fisted way Jackson responded to the story (word first leaked that Jackson was the infamous "Senate Candidate 5" on the Rod Blagojevich tapes back in December of 2008) suggest his mayoral aspirations were "a bit of an overreach to say the least."
- Position of Strength Time's Michael Scherer argues Rahm Emmanuel's as-yet-undeclared intentions could limit the impact of the story. "Chicago politics," Scherer notes, "moves fast. As long as Emanuel stays as chief of staff, he cannot make all the moves he should be making, like traveling to Chicago, working the local press or showing his full commitment to the race." In this case, he's missing a key chance to score some easy points off his most well-known opponent.
- Undone by Obama? The meteoric rise of Barack Obama effectively put the kibosh on Jackson's promising political future, muses the Sun-Times' Carol Marin. "I can't help thinking that one of the worst things that ever happened to Jesse Jackson Jr. was Barack Obama," she observes. "What always seemed to elude him was the respect he believed he had earned but was denied by Mayor Daley and the power elite of Chicago and Washington." As Obama's clout grew, Jackson's diminished. In its place emerged a "palpable fury at not being given his proper due." Politically, Jackson might have been past his sell-by date even before Monday's story broke.
- End of a Dynasty The Chicago Tribune's John Kass writes that the Jackson family no longer wields the kind of power that is needed to weather a story of this type. The family may "think they're truly the Kennedys of the South Side, but the sound of their royal entitlement has become so loud, they've become tone deaf." In the process, they've become enmeshed in a new scandal that, according to Kass, goes "beyond the Indian businessmen and allegations of Chicago-style corruption. It is lower and deeper now. It is quite elemental."