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Jesse Jackson Jr.: I’m not target of investigation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Wednesday he openly sought appointment to Barack Obama’s Senate seat but denied offering favors in return to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and said he was not involved “whatsoever in any wrongdoing.”

A lawyer for Jackson acknowledged that the Illinois Democrat is “Senate Candidate 5” in the 76-page federal complaint filed against Blagojevich, who was arrested Tuesday. Wiretapped conversations suggest Blagojevich felt the candidate would raise campaign money for him in exchange for being appointed to the Senate seat vacated by the president-elect.

Jackson, a seven-term House member and son of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, told reporters in Washington that he spoke with the U.S. attorney’s office Tuesday.

“They shared with me that I am not a target of the investigation and that I am not accused of any misconduct,” said Jackson, who left the crowded session without taking questions.

U.S. attorney’s spokesman Randall Samborn would not confirm or deny Jackson’s assertions.

Blagojevich, a second-term Democrat, is accused of scheming to enrich himself by selling Obama’s open seat for cash or a lucrative job for himself or his wife. The federal complaint says that in a wiretapped conversation on Oct. 31, Blagojevich described an approach “by an associate of Senate Candidate 5.”

The governor was quoted as saying the person made a “pay to play” proposal, a term for a payment in exchange for a political favor. “That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand” for future political campaigns, the governor said in the wiretapped conversation.

Jackson said Wednesday: “I did not initiate nor authorize anyone, at any time, to promise anything to Gov. Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer or to propose a deal about the U.S. Senate seat.”

He said he would fully cooperate with the investigation.

Jackson’s Chicago-based lawyer, James D. Montgomery Sr., said, “Politicians and fundraisers do some very strange things from time to time. I wouldn’t put it past someone to be purporting to represent Jesse without authority.”

Jackson said he met with Blagojevich on Monday in Chicago for 90 minutes to discuss the Senate vacancy. It was their first meeting in about four years, he said.

“I presented my record, my qualifications and my vision,” Jackson said. “Despite what he may have been looking for, that’s all I had to offer.”

The federal complaint cites an intercepted Blagojevich conversation on Dec. 4. In it, the complaint alleges, the governor told an unidentified adviser “that he was giving Senate Candidate 5 greater consideration for the Senate seat because, among other reasons, if Rod Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would ‘raise money’ for him.”

It alleges that Blagojevich said he might get some money “up front, maybe” from the Senate hopeful “to insure senate candidate five kept his promise about raising money” for the governor.

On Wednesday, Jackson called on Blagojevich to resign and said he was appalled “by the pay-to-play schemes hatched at the highest levels of Illinois state government.”

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