Jesse Jackson Jr. Charged With Illegally Spending Campaign Funds

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., is expected to plead guilty on campaign finance charges. He is accused of diverting about $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now to another remarkable fall from grace. Just three months after he resigned from Congress, Jesse Jackson, Jr. is preparing to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge. Prosecutors say the Illinois Democrat used $750,000 in campaign funds to buy a Rolex watch, mink coats, sports memorabilia. His wife Sandy will plead guilty to a tax change for failing to report that money to the IRS.

NPR's Carrie Johnson has the story.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Jessie Jackson Jr. spent 17 years building a political career on Capitol Hill and trying to build an identity in the shadow of his father, a civil rights hero. Even yesterday, as Jackson Jr. acknowledged he had broken the law, he seemed to have legacy on his mind. In a written statement, he apologized and said he hoped he'll be remembered for the things he did right.

Melanie Sloan leads the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

MELANIE SLOAN: This is just out and out theft. I mean, campaign funds are not meant to be spent on minks and Rolex watches. People donate money to campaigns so that members and candidates who share their values and ideas will be elected to Congress and then serve their interest.

JOHNSON: The Justice Department wants that money back. It's asking a judge to force the Jacksons to turn over a jaw-dropping list of items: a fedora once owned by Michael Jackson, memorabilia from Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix and mink capes and fur parkas. Jackson could spend about four years in prison if a judge accepts the plea deal. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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