Jesse Jackson Jr. allegations detailed

Campaign funds went toward luxuries, federal prosecutors say

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CHICAGO -- Jesse Jackson Jr.'s final act as a public official was to send a Thanksgiving eve resignation letter to the speaker of the U.S. House in which he declared that "for 17 years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy and life to public service."

But federal prosecutors revealed an image of Mr. Jackson as less a public servant and more a politician interested in surrounding himself with treasures. A gold-plated Rolex. Furs and cashmere capes. Memorabilia from Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. Luxuries out of the reach of the many people trying to stay above the poverty line in Mr. Jackson's former congressional district in Chicago's South Side.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Mr. Jackson and his wife, former Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, misused more than $750,000 in campaign funds for their personal benefit over nearly seven years, starting in 2005. She faces her own charge of fraudulently understating the couple's income on tax returns for six years.

The charges, months in the making, are the latest development in a steady but grand fall for the onetime political power couple.

The son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson once was considered a wunderkind in Chicago politics and a threat to become Chicago mayor. Then he became ensnared in the scandal that brought down former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Last June, Mr. Jackson took a leave of absence from Congress, and bipolar disorder was diagnosed.

Both Jacksons are expected to sign plea deals with prosecutors.

The criminal information issued Friday against Mr. Jackson, 47, is filled with details about how he allegedly used his campaign fund as a personal piggy bank.

Prosecutors said Mr. Jackson and someone they identified only as "Co-Conspirator 1" attempted to conceal the spending by falsifying financial reports to the U.S. House and campaign reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The Chicago Tribune has identified "Co-Conspirator 1" as Ms. Jackson. She is not charged in her husband's case.

"The goal of the conspiracy was for Defendant Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and Co-Conspirator 1 to enrich themselves by engaging in a conspiracy and a scheme to defraud in which they used funds donated to the Campaign for their own personal benefit," prosecutors wrote in their federal filing.

Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, said the D.C. legal filing makes it clear that prosecutors wanted the public to know the extreme types of items the former congressman purchased, including a Michael Jackson fedora for $4,600 and a "Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar" that cost $4,000.

"These things were paid for with monies contributed to his campaign fund with the intent to help him to get re-elected and pursue an appropriate political agenda for his district, a district which is currently dealing with very serious issues such as gun violence and economic troubles," Mr. Cramer said. "He used the account like an ATM machine without regard for the outrageous nature of the items."

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