Written by The Chicago Defender
Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned from Congress last week and acknowledged he was the subject of a federal investigation, could be eligible for an annual pension estimated at $45,000, but that benefit would be lost if he was convicted of one of several public corruption felonies.
Jackson, 47, a South Side Democrat who served 17 years in Congress, remained out of sight Monday, five days after sending a resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. A federal criminal investigation into Jackson's alleged misuse of campaign money remains active, a source said Monday.
Jackson has been out of the public eye since June, when he began a leave for what aides later disclosed is bipolar disorder. He won re-election Nov. 6 while at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where an official said Monday he is no longer a patient.
Smith & Co., a crisis management firm that is representing Jackson, declined to comment on his whereabouts. The firm, with offices in Washington and Los Angeles, in the past has represented clients including Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick and former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.
Federal officials do not disclose how much a retiree receives as a pension. But at the National Taxpayers Union, Executive Vice President Pete Sepp estimated that Jackson could collect about $45,000 a year when he reaches age 62. If Jackson chose to draw the pension beginning at age 56 — just a little more than eight years from now — the sum would be reduced by 30 percent, leaving about $31,500 a year.
Jackson has not been charged with a crime. He said in his resignation letter that he was aware of the ongoing federal investigation into his activities and was doing his best to cooperate with investigators and accept responsibility for his "mistakes."
Earlier this year, Congress expanded the number of felony public corruption offenses that would trigger the loss of a federal pension. They added several crimes, including tax evasion, money laundering and offenses relating to soliciting political contributions.
Lawmakers also broadened the penalty's reach by dictating that it would apply to former members of Congress who became president or vice president or served in state or local government. That provision was aimed at high-profile figures such as now-imprisoned Rod Blagojevich, a former congressman convicted of offenses that occurred while he was Illinois governor.
Jackson announced his resignation when the House was adjourned for Thanksgiving week. The House is scheduled to gavel back into session at 1 p.m. CST on Tuesday. Sometime later, Jackson's resignation letter will be read aloud.
That might not be the last word from Capitol Hill on Jackson.
The House Ethics Committee had been investigating Jackson's efforts in 2008 to gain Blagojevich's appointment to President Barack Obama's Senate seat, but the committee does not have jurisdiction over former lawmakers and may not sanction them. However, the panel retains the authority to issue a report in such cases and could do so regarding Jackson. The panel did just that after the 2006 resignation of Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., over sexually provocative emails to teenage boys who had been congressional pages.
Meanwhile, Jackson's former offices remain open, under the control of the House clerk.
Under House rules, when a lawmaker dies, resigns or is expelled, the clerk manages the congressional office until a successor is chosen for the vacancy, said Steve Dutton, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration.
Dutton said Jackson's offices in Washington, Chicago and Homewood will remain open — and staffers paid — until a successor is picked.