Understanding the Political Connections in the Ill. Governor Corruption Scandal

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," December 10, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is Senate candidate number five, the one named in the FBI's affidavit in support of the complaint charging the Illinois governor.

The Illinois governor is accused of trying to sell President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat. Did Congressman Jackson play any part in a pay to play scheme?


REP. JESSE JACKSON, (D) ILLINOIS: In the 13 years that I have served in the Congress of the United States, I only missed two votes. And there is no Democrat and no Republican in the Congress of the United States who can say that.

I thought mistakenly that the governor was going to make a decision in the best interest of our state as well as our nation. I thought mistakenly that the governor was considering me based on my 13 years of hard work on behalf of the people in our state as well as our nation.

I thought mistakenly I had a chance and I was being considered because I earned. Clearly I was badly mistaken.

I did not know that process had been corrupted. I did not know that credentials, that qualifications, that a record of service meant nothing to the governor.

I want to make this fact plain. I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf.

I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case, or to propose a deal about a U.S. Senate seat, period.

I thought, mistakenly, that the process was fair, above board, and on the merits. I met with Governor Blagojevich for the first time in four years on Tuesday. I presented my record, my qualifications, and my vision.

The media saw me enter the governor's office, and after a 90 minute meeting about my qualifications, the media saw me exit Governor Blagojevich's office.

Despite what he may have been looking for, that's all I had to offer.


VAN SUSTEREN: Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau Chief of "The Chicago Sun-Times" is with us and joins us right here in Washington.

Lynn, we have up a bunch of pictures. I want you to tell us who these people are. And I just want to caution the viewers that just the fact that these people know each doesn't mean that they're in any way involved with the governor in a criminal enterprise or with Tony Rezko.

But, anyway, here is the group. Here are the people from Chicago that you write about all the time. What is the connection, relationship, if any, between the governor and Tony Rezko?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Tony Rezko figures in the criminal investigation of Blagojevich, a major fundraiser for the governor.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does he have anything relationship at all, Tony Rezko, with Rahm Emanuel, the new chief of staff and the former congressman?

SWEET: No. But, interestingly, Rahm does have the seat that Rod Blagojevich had that he gave up to run for congress.

VAN SUSTEREN: David Axelrod, who is he?

SWEET: David Axelrod is Obama's top strategist going to the White House. He at one time years ago was an adviser to Governor Blagojevich, a longtime friend of Barack Obama, and good friend and media strategist for Rahm Emanuel.

VAN SUSTEREN: I read recently-this is like "Jeopardy." I read recently, though, that David Axelrod was asked to join the Governor in his last run but thought he wasn't qualified, or something like that. Is that true?

SWEET: But that time there was a cloud over Blagojevich, and David said no. but they were once friends. They were close. Axelrod's son once worked in Blagojevich's office as an intern or something. So they go way back.

Watch Greta's interview

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's go to Valerie Jarrett. Who's she?

SWEET: Valerie Jarrett is an incoming senior advisor, confidant to not only Barack Obama but Michelle. She hired Michelle to her job in Mayor Daley's city hall.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does she have any relationship to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, the governor, Tony Rezko, or Jesse Jackson Jr.?

SWEET: What is interesting is that in the way Chicago politics work, she is actually better known, before Barack Obama and Michelle Obama became really famous, which is just in the last four years, Valerie Jarrett ran the city transit agency. She was part of Mayor Daley's city hall.

Rahm, when he came back to Chicago from Bill Clinton White House, was helping run the board of the Chicago Housing Authority. And David Axelrod is a chief adviser to Mayor Daley.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jesse Jackson Jr., the son of Reverend Jackson, who we just heard speak. He's number five. What is his reputation in Chicago?

He had a very passionate speech saying he had nothing to do with any pay-to-play.

SWEET: I think he had a terrific speech. And I just urge people to keep an open mind on this one.

Where he fits into this is what you are looking are different wings of the Democratic family in Chicago, and he comes out of the Jackson wing.

You just heard me say "city hall" about three or four times. He comes out of a another Southside kind of politics that never came out of the remnants of the old machine.

Rod Blagojevich, by the way, if you go back to that circle, his father-in-law is a Chicago alderman who gave him his start in politics. And, therefore, he was known to everyone.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the governor's wife is somehow --

SWEET: The governor's wife Patti is the daughter of a Chicago alderman, who is also our local ward boss.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tony Rezko is pending sentencing and has been convicted. Is he talking, or is he done cooperating with the police, if you know?

SWEET: We will know more once the sentencing is locked in. And, again, he figures with the two men on top of him, because Tony Rezko and his wife were the ones who bought the empty lot next to Obama's house in Kenwood that became a big, big story in itself.

And what is interesting in this criminal complaint-while a lot of the sensational part of it had to do with delegations about the governor selling the senate seat, there is stuff in there also about schemes and plots dealing with Tony Rezko.

VAN SUSTEREN: And, of course, I should emphasize in all fairness to the president-elect that the U.S. attorney when he spoke yesterday was very specific saying that nothing linked President-elect Obama.

SWEET: Nothing did, but you're talking about the Democratic tribes in Chicago--explaining the context that has spawned these people. Look at Rahm, David, and Valerie are all going to be in very high places in the White House. They is just a lot of interest in this kind of tribal-

VAN SUSTEREN: And in all fairness, this is an ongoing investigation, and the prosecutor invited people to come forward. So we will have a lot to see.

SWEET: Right. And one other thing -Valerie Jarrett's name was mentioned in there because there is a possibility that she might have been interested in the Senate seat.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lynn, thank you.

SWEET: Thank you.

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