Michael Jackson's hat, a Rolex and MLK souvenirs: Jesse Jackson Jr’s campaign-fund spree
Congressman says sorry after admitting to blowing thousands on celebrity memorabilia
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Sunday 17 February 2013
Countless politicians have been caught indulging secret vices, but few can claim an addiction as eccentric as that of the former US Congressman Jesse Jackson Junior.
Mr Jackson, the 47-year-old son of the veteran civil rights campaigner, the Rev Jesse Jackson, has admitted spending $750,000 (£483,000) of campaign funds on personal expenses, including tens of thousands on celebrity memorabilia.
Over four years starting in 2007, the Illinois Democrat is accused of using funds donated to his re-election campaign to buy $22,700 of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a $4,600 fedora. He also spent $10,105 on Bruce Lee memorabilia, $11,130 on mementoes of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, and almost $9,000 on items related to Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.
On Friday, prosecutors in Washington DC filed fraud and conspiracy charges against Mr Jackson. His wife Sandi, 49, is charged with tax fraud after allegedly filing tax returns that under-reported the amount the couple owed. Both intend to plead guilty. Mr Jackson faces a maximum five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The court could also seize at least $60,000 of items purchased with misappropriated funds.
Court documents reveal that the most expensive single item was a $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch, purchased in July 2007. The following year, Mr Jackson claimed to have spent $1,553 to rent a room in a Chicago museum for a campaign fund-raising event, but prosecutors say he in fact used that money to buy “porcelain collectors' items”.
In 2009, he allegedly paid $5,000 for an American football signed by US presidents.
Paul Matsumoto, of the Edwards Lowell Furrier and Fur Shop in Beverly Hills, reportedly told the FBI that at a 2009 charity event, Mr Jackson bought a $800 mink cashmere cape, a $1,500 black and red cashmere cape, a $1,200 mink reversible parka and a $1,500 “black fox reversible”. The money was also used to buy basic household items, such as toilet paper.
Mr Jackson was elected to the House of Representatives in 1995 after his predecessor, Mel Reynolds, was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a teenage campaign volunteer.
Mr Jackson resigned in November 2012, citing bipolar disorder and debilitating depression. His wife, herself an elected Chicago city official, resigned last month.
In a statement, Mr Jackson apologised to his family, friends and supporters, saying: “I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made … While my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”
What he bought: the shopping list
Malcolm X memorabilia, Feb 2010 $2,200
Gold-plated men's Rolex watch, July 2007 $43,350
Bruce Lee memorabilia, Aug 2007 to Aug 2008 $10,105
Martin Luther King Jr memorabilia, Aug and Sept 2008 $11,130
Michael Jackson items, Aug 2009 to Mar 2010 $4,600
Eddie Van Halen guitar and Michael Jackson items, Nov 2009 $4,000
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