Thursday, March 7, 2019

Similar actions, differing outcomes, for former Congressmen Jackson, Schock

Both of them were once up-and-comers within the Illinois delegation of Congress who had the potential to rise to positions of great authority within our local political scene.

SCHOCK: Has a chance at life after politics
They both wound up being found using money donated to their campaign funds to do some redecoration of their official government offices in their own style.

BOTH WOUND UP facing the wrath of federal prosecutors who were inclined to believe that actions previously considered legitimate were actually criminal in nature.

But that is where the similarities end between Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Aaron Schock.

The former House of Representatives member from the South Shore neighborhood wound up facing the prosecutorial pressure and pleaded guilty – ultimately getting a 30-month prison term and doing his time, in part because prosecutors also went after his wife, Sandi, to tighten the screws even further.

Jackson is now free from prison, but will go through the rest of his life with a criminal record. Something that thoroughly satisfies those people who enjoy saying that the namesake son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is nothing but a convicted felon.

BUT AS FOR Schock, the former House member from Peoria will face a different fate.

JACKSON: Would he have liked a Schock deal?
For federal prosecutors this week reached an agreement by which they’ll drop the criminal charges that Schock faced for using the campaign funds to decorate his congressional office in the style of the British television series “Downton Abbey,” along with using money to pay for a flight back to Chicago so he could attend a Chicago Bears football game.

There might be some people, myself included, who’d say that Schock and Jackson were similar.

Remember that Jesse Jr. used the campaign funds to purchase items of memorabilia that he intended to use to give his congressional office a colorful touch. Such as a fedora once belonging to singer Michael Jackson, and boxing gloves once used by prize fighter Muhammad Ali.

BUT JESSE GOT the intense pressure that ultimately led to his guilty plea – in part to reduce the amount of time that prosecutors would seek to have his wife serve.

SANDI: Feds took her down too
For Sandi Jackson herself faced an indictment – mostly because as his spouse, she co-signed the tax returns that the congressman used to try to claim that his use of the money for the purchases was legal.

Of course, the fact that Sandi Jackson was an alderman from the South Shore neighborhood at the time meant prosecutors got a “double” out of that case. A corrupt congressman AND Chicago alderman. Somebody got two notches on their career belt out of the Jacksons.

Could it be the fact that Schock gave up his own congressional seat from central Illinois so willingly meant he was no longer a prosecutorial prize for some attorney trying to build up his career record?

Would Mayor Emanuel and Gov. Rauner have occurred … 
AS THINGS TURNED out, a “guilty” plea was entered this week against Schock’s campaign committee – a misdemeanor offense that he didn’t properly report his expenses.

But if Schock is not running for future office, that isn’t much of a penalty. Schock himself had all the criminal charges dropped against him – provided he repays $68,000 to the campaign fund and $42,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

… if Jackson, Schock had been politically viable?
Schock won’t be doing prison time. He won’t have a criminal record. A deal that I’m sure Jesse, Jr., would love to have been offered all those years ago. But wasn’t, because there was no way anyone bearing the moniker “Jesse Jackson, Jr.” could be offered anything resembling a prosecutorial deal that would have been sensible.

And there’s one other thing the two have in common – they both are stories of what “might have been” in Illinois politics; with Jackson as the mayor Chicago never got and Schock being the governor who might have spared our state the levels of partisan political nonsense it endured during the Bruce Rauner years.


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