December 8, 2009 Blago-Jackson meeting testimony helps Rod
Cong. Jackson testified this morning at the Blagojevich retrial that he met with Gov. Rod Blagojevich on December 8, 2009, the day before Rod was arrested, for 75 to 90 minutes in the Governor's office at the Thompson Center in the Chicago Loop. Jackson said the issue of fundraising never came up at that meeting. Since U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald spoke of a "crime spree," in which Blagojevich was engaged just before he was arrested, the speculation among pundits was that the Jackson-Blago meeting on December 8 must have involved some really sordid pay to play stuff about Jackson getting the appointment to the U. S. Senate. But, according to Jackson, it was all on the up and up, including Jackson delivering a binder to the Governor about Jackson's qualifications to be U. S. Senator, including broad-based support across the state, as demonstrated by polling data.
Jackson also said he never told Blagojevich he would raise money for him in exchange for the senate seat appointment. Jackson testified he has never, in 16 years as a congressman, directed anyone to raise money for another politician.
However, Jackson was not asked specifically if Blagojevich or anyone on his behalf ever asked Jackson to raise money for him in exchange for the Senate Seat appointment. Perhaps it can be argued that implicitly Jackson's testimony is that such an exchange was never offered by Rod or his folks, but that was never explicitly stated in the testimony.
Jackson conceded he made some apologies at the December 8 meeting as he was seeking to get the Senate appointment and he was the only one to do so.
Jackson declined Rod's pay to play offer
Jackson stung Rod a few times with his testimony about how Rod operates. When Rod was running for Governor in 2002, Jackson turned down Cong. Bill Lipinski's request for a 25K campaign contribution to Rod. Jackson got some laughter in the room when he said there was "No chance," he would agree to that."
Tony Rezko's cameo in Jackson's testimony
After Rod was elected to Governor and was building his Administration's team, Rod said to Jackson that they could let "bygones be bygones," which Jackson understood to refer to Jackson's decision not to endorse Rod in the gubernatorial primary and not to contribute 25K to Rod's Campaign. Jackson testified he was interested at that time in helping his wife, Sandi Jackson, a lawyer, get a job in Rod's administration. Jackson was told to give Sandi's resume to Tony Rezko, who said he would consider Sandi Jackson for the position of Director of the Illinois Lottery.
Jackson's refusal to contribute 25K to Rod meant no job for his spouse.
Sandi did not get the job to run the Illinois Lottery and six months later Blagojevich was in DC to meet with various members of congress. Jackson said he and Rod were alone at some point at the meeting and there was "a chill in the room." Jackson testified it was clear that Rod was not interested in doing anything for Sandi. Blagojevich said "it's too bad things didn't work out for Sandi." Jackson told Rod it was "Not a big deal." Blagojevich then responded, testified Jackson, by snapping his fingers "in that Elvis imitation of his," (Jackson snapped his fingers a few times for emphasis) and said, "You should have given me that $25,000." Cong. Jackson testified that his understanding of what Rod meant by that was that "Jackson's failure to give Rod 25K was a factor in Rod's consideration [not to appoint Sandi to the Lottery job]."
Jackson's testimony is a net help for Blagojevich.
On net, Jackson probably helped Blagojevich this morning more than he hurt him. But, the Jackson story about Rod's admonition that Cong. Jackson should have paid to play is not a good impression to leave with the jury. Moreover, Jackson's appearance wasn't close to being the game changer that Rod needed. Jackson mostly helped Jackson. It was a polished, confident performance by a man who once thought he would be the U. S. Senator that Barack Obama became. For almost the last decade, there has not been much love lost between Blagojevich and Jackson. Today didn't do anything to change that. Indeed, when Blagojevich spoke to Cong. Jackson in 2008, that was the first time the two had spoken in the prior four years.