Tags: Jesse Jackson Jr.

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Lawyer, Not-So-Subtly Blaming Mental Illness


There’s a considerable amount of reaction to this section of today’s Morning Jolt:

Jesse Jackson Jr., Not-So-Subtly Blaming His Crimes on Mental Illness

Jesse Jackson Jr. will go to prison for 30 months, with the possibility of time off for good behavior.

At the sentencing, his lawyer made some odious comments.

Earlier, Jackson Jr.’s lawyer Reid Weingarten said his client felt “horror, shame and distress” over his crimes.

But Weingarten also attempted to downplay the impact of Jackson Jr.’s actions, since he took money from his own campaign fund. It’s not as if there are widows and orphans outside the courthouse who are victims and asking for his head, Weingarten said.

“This is not a Ponzi scheme,” he said.

Weingarten asked for an 18-month sentence for Jackson Jr. and noted, “He suffers from a very, very serious mental health disease.”

He identified the ex-congressman’s illness as bipolar disorder, and conceded that it was relevant even though “we didn’t plead guilty by reason of insanity.”

What is bipolar disorder, again?

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.

Does bipolar disorder make you divert $750,000 in campaign donations to personal use? Does it make you use that money to buy items from a “$43,000 gold Rolex to cashmere capes — capes, plural — to nearly $20,000 of Michael Jackson memorabilia?” Does bipolar disorder somehow interfere with people’s ability to know right from wrong, or illegal from legal? When Jackson Jr. took that money and spent it on himself, was that the bipolar disorder, or just being a selfish, greedy jerk?

Jackson Jr. and his lawyer would undoubtedly insist they genuinely care about those with mental illness, and combatting the stigma it still carries in many corners of our society today. But how does it help those with bipolar disorder to emphasize the mental illness in the explanation of the crime?

Doesn’t that implicitly tell the rest of society that people with bipolar disorder are prone to commit fraud and use others’ funds for their personal use?

While I wouldn’t dispute that bipolar disorder can influence a person’s actions, all Americans, no matter their state of mental health or ill health, are bound by the same laws. The law says that if you ask people for money to finance your reelection campaign for the House of Representatives, you can’t turn around and spend that money on Rolexes and cashmere capes — even if you have bipolar disorder. This was not a one-time error in judgment or an implusive purchase; this was many, many purchases over an extended period of time, and Mrs. Jackson was involved in similar criminal activity, with no diagnosis of bipolar disorder on her part.

It’s an updated version of “the devil made me do it” — an attempt to blame an external force instead of taking true responsibility for one’s actions.

Tags: Jesse Jackson Jr.

The Media’s On-and-Off Corruption/Stupidity Narratives


The media’s disinterest in Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar, the latest politician to opine about rape and the proper options for women in response to the threat, illustrates a great deal about the recurring narratives in our political media, such as a “culture of corruption” or a “war on women.”

On Saturday, the Washington Post had separate page A1 stories about the scandals engulfing former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Throw in the accusations against Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts, the U.S. House Committee on Ethics’ investigation of a Taiwan trip by Rep. Bill Owens of New York, the committee investigation and fees paid for the Scotland trip of Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey, and the dispute as to whether Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts really lives in the district he represents...

..and you can see that if the Post or any other mainstream media institution could easily write up a story or a series of stories about the Democratic Party’s sudden ethical morass and the “culture of corruption.”

But the scandals of Jackson Jr. & Menendez – and the scandal of other Democrats – are rarely if ever deemed “symbolic” of any problems for the party as a whole. They’re just some stuff that happened.

But when Republicans are caught in scandals, coverage often suggests a “broader meaning” or “deeper context” or “powerful symbolism.”

There are currently 274 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, or governors mansions (I’m counting independents who caucus with the Democrats in this mix). There are currently 307 Republicans in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, or governors mansions.

At any given moment, at least a handful in each group are going to be in some sort of scandal or ethical hot water, or making embarrassing gaffes, or saying something stupid.

Then you throw in every lieutenant governor, state treasurer, and state legislator, not to mention members of the cabinet and members of the previous administration.

Permit me to paraphrase a profane rant from the site,  in an article about how to spot “B.S Political Stories,” urging wariness about any article that has the word ‘lawmaker’ in the headline:

In every single group of human beings, you have a certain percentage of crazy [poop-heads]. Find me an organization of a million charity workers who have devoted their lives to saving homeless golden retrievers, and I’ll bet my life that within that group I can find a faction of crazy [poop-heads]. Hell, I’ll bet I can find at least one in any group of a dozen people. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, weed advocates, anti-drug advocates, cupcake bakers, window washers. They all — all — have their crazy [poop-heads] that can be pointed out. I bet I can find at least one in your family.

Therefore, their existence proves nothing about the group as a whole. And, therefore, it is always wrong to dismiss a political movement by simply pointing at their craziest [poop-heads] and saying, “See! That is what (insert group here) is REALLY thinking.” It’s a cheap shot, anybody can do it and it’s an outright lie.

In other words, “lawmaker” is a signal that the article is about a politician you’ve never heard about before. If you knew who this person was, they would have used the name in the headline.

So does Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar deserve national attention for his comment, suggesting that women shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun to protect themselves from rape because whistles and call boxes are sufficient? Perhaps, perhaps not. But the mainstream media institutions have already established the rules of the game – any lawmaker at any level can be considered a spokesman for the party if the statement is outlandish or damaging enough.

If the press wants to treat comments like Salazar’s as a state-level news story at most, that means they can’t use every yammering yokel as easy fodder for cable news segments and columns about how awful the GOP is. Next time, perhaps it will warrant the headline, ’Lawmaker You Never Heard Of Speaks Off Cuff, Says Something Stupid.’

Tags: Bob Menendez , Jesse Jackson Jr. , Joe Salazar

Meet Lenny McAllister, an Intriguing GOP Name in Chicago’s House Race


The upcoming U.S. House election in Illinois’s second congressional district represents a steep challenge for Republicans; the district gave 90 percent of its vote to Barack Obama in 2008 and was until recently represented by Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr., who managed to easily win reelection in 2012 even though he was under criminal investigation and on medical leave.

But Jackson announced his resignation on November 21, and now a special election will occur on April 9, with turnout expected to be much lower. While the district scores a D+32 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, it does have some less heavily Democratic sections, stretching from 53rd Street on the city’s South Side through the south suburbs of Chicago, all the way to Kankakee County.

Five Republicans have filed papers to run for the seat; the best known is probably Lenny McAllister, a former local radio host and syndicated radio commentator.

“Who am I? I think first I would define myself as a child of God,” McAllister begins. “Somebody that is a leader, that doesn’t follow conventional politics. I am a Republican, but I am definitely not of the current stereotype. I am a Republican who embraces conservative principles and understands where conservative principles can apply to urban and suburban voting populations in a way that the Republican party has not been successful in engaging those voting blocs over the past 30 years. Yet at the same time, I am a Republican not afraid to talk about issues of race, issues of social economics, not afraid to talk about issues that have been impacting the youth, the poor, and the working classes of America.”

McAllister contends he’s uniquely qualified as messenger for the GOP, citing his past work hosting a radio show on WVON and writing op-eds for the Chicago Defender, and his current appearances on American Urban Radio Network, a group of about 400 African-American and urban radio stations across the country.

“To be able to have a platform that talks to different segments of America, there’s a unique opportunity for Republicans to be able to show folks that our values can be effective in an urban district, particularly one that’s been suffering for so long,” McAllister says. “It’s been so gerrymandered, there hasn’t even been legitimate Republican competition in this district in some time. No offense to any of the [past] candidates, that’s just numbers. We have an opportunity in 2013 to change that, to change the tone within the Republican party and to change the attention that both sides of the aisle give to districts like this one, and to start working better together.”

When asked about former representative Jackson, McAllister says he sees a personal tragedy and a political tragedy. “My prayers are with him and his family. I have worked with his older sister Santita, at WVON, I have worked with his brother Jonathan at Chicago State University. I have grown fond of that family. I may not agree with every single issue that they stand for, but there a human tragedy to this and a political tragedy to this. There are children involved with this, so that is where my focus is with that.”

“Regards to the political tragedy, you have a gerrymandered district where there is no political competition. The power of incumbency entrenches people so deeply, that it’s hard to get them out in a primary, and there’s no competition in the general election. These become small kingdoms. Once you’re in, people expect to stay in.”

The results of gerrymandering and the culture of “small kingdoms” spurred McAllister’s enthusiasm for term limits.

“I know that there is a representative in New York who is trying to repeal the presidential term limits. We need to do the exact opposite,” he says. “What we need to term-limit the House to no more than six consecutive terms and the Senate to no more than two consecutive terms. Nobody needs to be in either chamber for more than 12 years. If we can transition the political acumen in power in the president of the United States once every eight years, why can’t we do the same to the House of Representatives and the Senate every twelve years?”

On the recent strike by Chicago’s school teachers, McAllister expresses frustration at how the interests of the students was lost in a high-stakes contract fight.

“One of the questions I asked was, which many thought was a rather bold one to ask was, ‘In a summer when were shootings and a high rate of violence, where black youth gunned down in their neighborhoods, sometimes in broad daylight, where were the African-American leaders within the teachers’ union to say, “this could be deadly for our kids to keep them out of school longer?”’” he laments. “I understand the need for unions in the 21st century. I feel like unions can still have a proper role in places of business in the 21st century. But I think that unions such as teachers’ unions need to understand the model is different, and the expectations must be different.” He said he is intrigued by a recent proposal by the American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten for a type of “bar exam” for teachers to set standards for teacher quality.

Asked about the performance of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, McAllister sees a mixed record so far. “I think he understands that we’re going to have to do things differently in how we spend money, how we negotiate contracts, and in regards in how we prepare the workforce. There’s an initiative [of his] that was just announced today in the Sun-Times that’s similar to an initiative I’ve had, which is that we have to prepare more minorities for tech positions so they can get good jobs and be part of the resurgence of America and our economy. We’re talking about apprenticeships that target specific workers, whether it’s minority workers, minority students coming out of high school, or generally people who have not had the opportunity to transition to new work, to prepare them to get back into the workforce.”

But McAllister finds Emanuel’s time as mayor disappointing in its response to high crime rates, particularly shootings and violent crime. “I would like to see an increase in response to the violence we’ve had for the past year plus. I think he and Police Chief [Garry] McCarthy – the work that’s been put in place, it is well-intended, [but there's] more that could be done so that the violence stops. Not just adding police on the ground, but also going after economic policy so that kids at 12 and 13 see alternatives to violence so they’re not picking up guns at [ages] 16, 17, and 18. I’d like to see that effort ramped up more.”

Finally, McAllister sees a great need to take the abstract debate about the debt and put it into tangible terms for Americans who are focused on their immediate economic anxieties.

“When we start talking about spending, we have to bend back the curve, but as we’re doing that, we have to talk about jobs. It has to be tied together. Because if we’re going to bend back the spending, if we’re going to increase the ages for Social Security or Medicare, we have to make sure that there is an incentive for Generation X and Generation Y to want to work longer at a job that is going to be rewarding. . . . My candidacy is specifically designed and focused upon reintroducing the poor and the working poor of this district to the American Dream.”

He offers a simple argument against the current rate of government spending: Look closely at the results we see around us today.

“Spending is not bringing the jobs right now,” he says. “Spending has continued to increase during the course of Obama’s presidency, and the unemployment rate, starting in 2008, has boomed, to the point where we’re all starting to feel good about 7.8 percent unemployment, even as people continue to jump out of the workforce. Six percent unemployment was [considered] a problem just five years ago! We need smart spending policies in place, that allow employers to feel good to create jobs, and to feel that those jobs will still be there three, four, five, ten years from now and they won’t be in bankruptcy court.”

Tags: Jesse Jackson Jr. , Lenny McAllister , Rahm Emanuel

Senator... Affleck?


This morning, some new names are being mentioned for the various special elections coming up…

In Massachusetts, Jon Keller of the Boston CBS affiliate is floating a fun but unlikely famous name for that state’s upcoming special Senate election: “Believe it or not, one name I have heard tossed around is that of actor-director Ben Affleck, the pride of Cambridge, who’s been active in Democratic Party politics for more than a decade.”

Hey, the director of “Argo” might have a more clear-eyed view on Iran than, say, Chuck Hagel.

Down in Hilton Head, South Carolina, one Republican and one Democrat are making louder noises about running in the special election for the House seat that Tim Scott will be leaving:

State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island, and Beaufort County Democratic Party chairman Blaine Lotz expressed interest Monday, as did a handful of other legislators, in the House seat held by Scott, R-Charleston.

Patrick, elected to a second term Nov. 6 in an uncontested race, said he will discuss a run with his wife and pray about his decision.

“Two weeks ago, I never thought about running for higher office and was focused on doing the best I can representing Hilton Head Island and being a father and husband,” said Patrick, who is chief executive officer of Advance Point Global, a security consulting firm.

“But it is something I need to think about and an opportunity worth considering.”

Lotz ran for Congress — when much of Beaufort County was in the 2nd District — in 2008, but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Rob Miller of Lady’s Island, who lost the general election to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale.

Finally, in Chicago, one familiar name turned down a bid: “Jonathan Jackson told ABC7 he is not running for the congressional seat vacated by his brother Jesse Jackson Jr. Jackson said he was considering the seat but decided against it.”

Tags: Islam , Ed Gillespie , Jesse Jackson Jr.

Expect Three to Five Special Elections in the Coming Months


I periodically joke that there is no off-season in the world of political campaigns. We are likely to see at least four, and perhaps more, special elections in the coming months:

Illinois 2nd Congressional District, where Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned. A primary will be held February 26 (at this point, no Republicans are running, but eight Democrats have filed papers) and the special general election will be held April 9.

Missouri 8th Congressional District, where Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced she would resign in February. The date for this special election has not been determined yet; the candidates for Republicans and Democrats will be selected by the party committees.

South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, where Rep. Tim Scott has been appointed the state’s next U.S. Senator. The special election will be held 18 weeks after Scott’s formal resignation from the House, likely setting the special election for May.

Massachusetts Senate: Presuming that President Obama selects John Kerry as his next Secretary of State, Gov. Deval Patrick would appoint  an interim senator to serve until a special election could be held, most likely in May or June. The interim senator would have the option of running in the special election to fill out the remainder of Kerry’s term, which ends in January 2015.

In Hawaii, the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye means that Gov. Neil Ambercrombie will select a replacement to serve until 2014, when a special election is held (the interim senator may and probably will run in the special election). If Ambercrombie selects Rep. Colleen Hanabusa– reportedly the dying wish of the senator – then Hawaii will hold a special election to fill her seat 60 days after she resigns her House office.)

Tags: Colleen Hanabusa , Daniel Inouye , Jesse Jackson Jr. , Jo Ann Emerson , John Kerry , Tim Scott

The All-Stars Running in That Chicago House Race


There are now four Democrats angling for the House seat once occupied by Jesse Jackson Jr.

Governor Patrick “Pat” Quinn announced that the special election’s primary will be held on February 26, and the general election in the heavily Democratic district is tentatively scheduled for March 19. Quinn wants the state assembly to move the general election date to April 9, the same day as an already-scheduled election.

The four declared candidates are Chicago alderman Anthony A. Beale (who spent more of his official office expense account on public relations than any other Chicago alderman), former one-term representative Debbie Halvorson (who lost her 2010 reelction bid after she attacked the military service of GOP rival Adam Kinzinger), state senator–elect Napoleon Harris, and conveniently pre-indicted former representative Mel Reynolds, convicted of statutory rape and bank fraud in 1995.

Truly, a stellar lineup. Actually, Harris is a genuine all-star of sorts, having played in the NFL for several years and been named to named to the Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie team in 2001.

UPDATE: Also being mentioned as a candidate: Alderman Will Burns, who was Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager in his ill-fated 2000 primary challenge to Representative Bobby Rush.

Tags: Debbie Halvorson , Jesse Jackson Jr. , Dianne Feinstein

The Last House Race of 2012 and the First One of 2013


The Morning Jolt returns from its holiday hiatus, with a look at two House races — one not quite resolved, another coming soon in 2013 . . .

So, What Fun Can We Have With Chicago’s Upcoming Special House Election?

Moe Lane has a crazy idea for the upcoming special House election in Illinois, where Jesse Jackson Jr. has resigned, after increasingly bizarre behavior, a long disappearance from the public eye, and an announcement that he was on medical leave earlier this year for treatment of bipolar disorder.

Hold on, hear me out. Let’s jump back for a second to 2009. You might remember that in 2009 Rahm Emanuel resigned his House seat (IL-05) in order to bungle being White House Chief of Staff. Well, that caused a special election to trigger, and at the time I took the position that hey, how’s about trying to, maybe, I don’t know: win it? . . . And I was told, quietly but firmly, no. Folks didn’t like the candidate, didn’t like the idea of spending the money, didn’t want to contest the seat. And that’s fine; but here’s the thing. The Democrat who won (Mike Quigley) the primary was cordially hated by the rest of the Illinois Combine, and the general election he beat Rosanna Pulido, 30.6K to 10.6K. Two years later, Quigley’s opponent David Ratowitz got 38.9 K votes in the 2010 general election. Didn’t matter then, because Quigley got 108.3K votes . . . but it shows that there were in fact enough potential Republican voters in the IL-05 to win a low-turnout special election, if sufficiently motivated.

Now, let’s look at IL-02. In the last election Jackson got 181K votes to Brian Woodworth’s 67.4K. But Jesse Jackson’s quitting in, frankly, disgrace: and there’s going to be a vicious internal Democratic fight for his seat; and it’s a special election, which means low turnout. If the GOP does nothing, none of that will matter. If the GOP decides to make the Democrats work for the seat . . . it still may not matter. But . . . then again, it might. We won’t know until we actually try. What we do know is that doing nothing doesn’t work*.

All of which leads up to the observation that if anybody reading this has a clever plan about how to boost turnout in traditionally unfriendly districts, then there’s going to be a Republican campaign in Illinois in the very near future that is probably going to want to hear from you.

You can check out the oh-so-precise district lines here.

Jazz Shaw appears game, and already talking tactics:

So how do you do it? The first thing to settle on is what you don’t do. You don’t dump a ton of money into an air war that gets the Democrats noticing that there’s a race going on. What you do instead is bring back a very old, but mostly forgotten idea which we used to great effect in 2010: Precinct Captains. Invest the available resources in identifying one solid Republican in each and every precinct. Get them the data from pouring through registration stats to identify every single Republican and potential independent in the few miles around their house. Help them round up a few friends and quietly begin going door to door explaining the situation. Save your money for the final week before the special election and then hit a direct mail bomb targeting only the people on those lists.

The message is fairly simple. “Hey. There’s an election on Tuesday, and for the first time in living memory you’ve got a chance to have your voice heard. All you have to do is show up, because the liberals aren’t going to. Hell, we’ll even come give you a ride.”

Would it work, even in such a dismally conservative-poor area? You won’t know unless you try. But if it did, it would send shock waves across the country and be used as a model for the next cycle, demonstrating that 21st century election science is a game that both parties can play, not just Team Obama.

The schedule is coming together:

Cook County Clerk David Orr said Wednesday that he hopes to hold a primary election in February to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat in Congress.

Jackson announced his resignation mere weeks after handily winning re-election.

Most of the precincts included in the 2nd Congressional District already have a special election February 26, and all precincts have general elections planned for April 9. Chicago is the only place in Illinois not already holding a primary election in February; those Chicago precincts would be the only added cost.

And at this early point, it looks like the Democrats will probably have a messy primary:

Since Jackson announced on Wednesday that he was leaving office after 17 years for mental-health reasons, the local media have cited a number of sources saying they want to represent Illinois’ Second District. They include his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson; his brother, John Jackson; and former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Congressman Jackson in the March Democratic primary.

Other names include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, and Sam Adams, an Illinois attorney who led former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s defense team.

Some Democrats see a danger in so many would-be members of congressman. “My fear is that there is going to be so many wannabes blinded by ambition . . . that we could find a tea party” candidate winning, said Rep. Bobby Rush, who represents Illinois’ First District, hours after Jackson’s resignation.

Both Jackson’s brother and wife are both thinking of running for his suddenly-vacated congressional office? Boy, and you thought there was tension at your Thanksgiving table.

Election 2012, Not Quite Over Everywhere . . .

There’s one more House race to be resolved, down in Louisiana, pitting two incumbent House Republicans against each other: Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry. If you feel like the GOP needs to be pushed in a particular direction after the 2012 general election, here’s the first chance to weigh in:

But in a field of five candidates, neither incumbent mustered more than 50 percent of the vote, which is required to claim an outright win.

In Louisiana’s open primary system, all candidates for an office appear on the same ballot, regardless of party.

Boustany, of Lafayette, drew 45 percent of the vote and Landry, from New Iberia, drew 30 percent, according to unofficial results from the Louisiana secretary of state.

Democratic challenger Ron Richard peeled off almost 22 percent of the vote, and two other candidates finished with less than 4 percent combined.

Boustany, considered a moderate Republican, raised $3 million for the campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, almost 50 percent more than Landry, who had support from the Tea Party movement for smaller government. But endorsements from conservative political groups including FreedomWorks, Citizens United, Tea Party Nation and the Family Research Council strengthened Landry’s run.

Tags: SuperPACs , Chicago , Jeff Landry , Jesse Jackson Jr.

What Did Mark Kirk Ever Do to Deserve This?


Terrible news for Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for Senate in Illinois: Democratic congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is considering endorsing him.

Tags: Jesse Jackson Jr. , Mark Kirk

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