Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
Last week the House Ethics Committee, according to the law and its on-going responsibility, released several items, including a 24-page report (plus exhibits) gathered in 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Independent of the House of Representatives, the OCE gathers information as a separate entity with no compulsory process – e.g., it collects newspaper clippings and court filings and conducts voluntary interviews – and sends its findings to the House Ethics Committee.
The House Ethics Committee released four items – not just one – which included the OCE’s 24-page initial report which contained information gathered in 2009 regarding whether the House Ethics Committee should launch a full investigation into whether I attempted to illegally “buy” the U.S. Senate seat vacated by then-Senator Barack Obama after he was elected President.
There was nothing of substance actually new in the 24-page document, only more detailed information that contained sensationalized language previously printed in newspaper articles from 2009, such as “probable cause to believe,” “substantial reason,” “directed a third party,” and “had knowledge.” The OCE is a “fact gathering” entity, not an investigative body, and it has no power to compel testimony from anyone. Both the U.S. Attorney and the House Ethics Committee can legally compel testimony – and the U.S. Attorney exercised that power in the Blagojevich investigation and in two trials, an investigation in which I fully cooperated. Most of the media reports about the documents released by the House Ethics Committee focused on this old history (which the press determined was the new “news”) in the 2009 24-page report.
It was reported as if this old document contained new up-to-date information; and as though the full investigation of Blagojevich and his two criminal trials had not occurred – with all of the information we learned before, during and after both trials – including the fact that, to date, the Justice Department investigation has not resulted in any criminal charges being filed against me.
In other words, an OCE report that merely gathered voluntarily-disclosed information (in 2009), and concededly lacked information from numerous sources who (unlike me and my staff) declined to cooperate with OCE, had greater sway with reporters than a thorough and full investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice with full authority under the law to investigate, wire tap, compel testimony and cut deals with witnesses to tell the truth on the witness stand in exchange for shorter sentences – all of which the Justice Department used in an indictment, two trials and their conviction of former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
In reporting the story, almost all of the focus was on what the 2009 report contained – which is, of course, what triggered the House Ethics Committee investigation three years ago in the first place. However, at the request of the Justice Department, the