The investigation of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for possible misuse of campaign funds has expanded to include his wife’s conduct, which has become a subject in continuing plea negotiations, according to two people familiar with the case.
Federal prosecutors are reviewing evidence suggesting that Sandi Jackson was complicit in the alleged misuse of campaign funds to decorate the couple’s Washington, D.C., home, according to the people familiar with the investigation.
Mr. Jackson, an Illinois Democrat representing Chicago and some of its southern suburbs, has stayed out of the public eye since the spring. Aides revealed he was being treated for depression and gastrointestinal issues at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and he later returned to the clinic to receive care for a bipolar disorder, aides said. His wife is also an elected official, serving as alderman for Chicago’s 7th ward.
No decision has been made on whether to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Jackson, the people said, and prosecutors may use the threat of charging her as a means of extracting a guilty plea from the congressman. Ms. Jackson’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did lawyers for Mr. Jackson. A congressional spokesman for Mr. Jackson declined to comment.
Barry Pollack, a Washington, D.C., attorney not connected to the Jackson case, said political spouses often become key players in corruption probes. “Often, the government knows they have a potential case against the spouse, but it may not be the strongest case,” said Mr. Pollack, who has represented elected officials caught up in criminal or ethics investigations but has no information about the Jackson case. “That can give the government a lot of leverage because presumably it’s important for the [lawmaker] to protect his spouse.”
The prospect of potential charges against a political spouse can also deprive a defendant of a key alibi witness, because the threat of such charges may eliminate a potential explanation for the alleged wrongdoing, he said.
Mr. Jackson’s lawyers have been discussing a possible plea with the Justice Department for many weeks, according to several people involved in the case. Mr. Jackson’s lawyers had sought assurances the government wouldn’t file an indictment before the Nov. 6 election, in which Mr. Jackson easily won another House term. The government refused to make such a promise, but no charges were filed before the election.
Mr. Jackson, the 47-year-old son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil-rights leader and political activist, was first elected to Congress in 1995. He easily won re-election last week, after which he said in a statement that he continued “to feel better every day.”
The probe of Mr. Jackson’s possible misuse of campaign funds is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. That probe is separate from an earlier investigation in which Mr. Jackson’s name surfaced, the one that looked into former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempts to sell the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. Mr. Jackson wasn’t accused of wrongdoing in that matter.
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