Jesse Jackson Jr. Facing Ethics Charges

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An independent panel that reviews possible ethical lapses by members of the House of Representatives has launched a preliminary review of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s efforts to be appointed to the U.S. Senate by ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to a published report.

The Office of Congressional Ethics voted in late March for the review, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in a story posted Tuesday on its Web site, citing documents released to parties involved in the inquiry.

The committee has asked for documents, e-mails and other correspondence from Blagojevich’s gubernatorial and campaign staff regarding Jackson, Jackson’s brother Jonathan and his campaign staff, the Sun-Times reported, citing lawyers close to the probe. It requested information from June through December 2008.

The panel reportedly began its work last Thursday, the same day a federal grand jury indicted Blagojevich on corruption charges that, among other things, accuse him of scheming to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Blagojevich denies wrongdoing.

Jackson, the son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, has acknowledged he was “Senate Candidate A” in the Blagojevich criminal complaint, one of several candidates that authorities say the former governor considered for the seat now held by Roland Burris. Jackson’s supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for Blagojevich if he picked the congressman, the complaint said.

Jackson is not charged with wrongdoing. His office did not return messages left Tuesday after business hours from The Associated Press.

Leo Wise, who heads the Office of Congressional Ethics, told the AP he could “not confirm or deny that we are reviewing the materials” the Sun-Times referred to.

Reached at his home in suburban Maryland, Wise said the office has not released any documents concerning an investigation of Jackson.

The Office of Congressional Ethics reviews cases and refers them to the House ethics committee. It takes two members of the office, one from each party, to initiate a preliminary investigation of a member. Three board members must vote to move to a second phase review.

There is no public disclosure if the panel dismisses a case. Authority to make recommendations of censure or punishment still rests with the ethics committee, which is made up of House members.

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