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Jesse Jackson Jr. Denies Wrongdoing in Governor's Corruption Case

Jesse Jackson

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. denied any wrongdoing Wednesday in the corruption case against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich after his lawyer acknowledged that the Illinois congressman was likely the "Senate Candidate 5" named in the FBI complaint. 

Blagojevich is accused of a "pay-to-play" scheme to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama

Though the affidavit says Blagojevich named "Senate Candidate 5" as an individual potentially willing to pay him in exchange for Obama's seat, Jackson said he was assured by federal prosecutors Tuesday that he is not a target of the investigation. 

"I want to make this fact plain: I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing," Jackson said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., while calling on the governor to resign. "I did not initiate or authorize anyone at anytime to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf."

Jackson's attorney, James Montgomery Sr., also emphasized at an earlier press conference Wednesday that Jackson was not guilty of any impropriety. 

"Congressman Jackson has never authorized anyone to seek the governor's support in return for money, fundraising, or any other thing of value," he said. "The information contained in that affidavit does not in any way make Jesse Jackson Jr. complicit in any 'pay-for-play' transactions." 

The affidavit says an associate of Candidate 5 discussed raising $500,000 -- and then another $1 million -- for Blagojevich in exchange for the Senate seat. But Montgomery suggested Jackson could have been set up and said he wasn't aware of any associates making such a proposal. 

"I wouldn't put it past someone to be purporting to represent Jesse without authority," Montgomery said, adding that Jackson is still interested in filling Obama's open Senate seat. 

Earlier Wednesday, ABC News quoted federal law enforcement sources saying the son of the civil rights leader is the candidate identified by the FBI as willing to spend up to $1 million to secure the Senate seat.

"Senate Candidate 5" is listed in the FBI complaint, which includes a compendium of wiretapped conversations involving Blagojevich and his allies, as being named by the governor as an option for Obama's Senate seat because he would pay or raise money to Blagojevich's re-election campaign.

According to the affidavit, in a Dec. 4 recording of Blagojevich with an unnamed adviser and unnamed fundraiser, the governor says he may be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provides Blagojevich with something "tangible up front." 

If Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would "raise money" for the campaign, the affidavit alleges.

"Blagojevich said he might 'get some (money) up front, maybe' from Senate Candidate
5 to insure Senate Candidate 5 kept his promise about raising money for Rod Blagojevich. (In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, Rod Blagojevich described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: 'We were approached "pay to play." That, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a senator,'" the affidavit reads.

"Blagojevich allegedly told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that if Senate Candidate 5 is going to be chosen, 'some of this stuff's gotta start happening now ... right now ... and we gotta see it,'" the complaint continues.

In the affidavit, Blagojevich also allegedly says that unless Obama helps his wife get a seat on a corporate or nonprofit board, he will appoint Senate Candidate 5, rather than Senate Candidate 1, who has been reported to be Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett is joining the White House staff.

Blagojevich is also quoted allegedly saying on Nov. 11 that he will appoint Senate Candidate 1. "But if they feel like they can do this and not f---ing give me anything . . . then I'll f---ing go" with Senate Candidate 5.

Jackson, 43, joined the House in 1995, succeeding Rep. Mel Reynolds, who resigned after his conviction on charges of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography involved a 16-year-old girl who worked on his campaign.

Jackson said Tuesday that he met with Blagojevich on Monday "for the first time in years."

"If these allegations are proved true, I am outraged by the appalling, pay-to-play schemes hatched at the highest levels of our state government. Sadly, today's criminal complaint casts another dark, wide cloud over our state. The people of Illinois deserve better," Jackson said in a statement. 

The office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is prosecuting the case, would confirm whether Jackson is Senate Candidate 5. The FBI referred all comments to Fitzgerald's office.