Politics & Policy

Say Goodnight, Jesse

Time to take the spotlight off Jackson.

Hot on the heels of revelations that he fathered a love child with his mistress, the Reverend Jesse Jackson has tumbled further from the moral high ground. Jackson has added former Chicago Democratic congressman Mel Reynolds to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s payroll. Reynolds was among the 176 criminals excused in President Clinton’s last-minute forgiveness spree. Reynolds received a commutation of his six-and-a-half-year federal sentence for 15 convictions of wire fraud, bank fraud, and lies to the Federal Election Commission. He is more notorious, however, for concurrently serving five years for sleeping with an underage campaign volunteer.

#ad#This is a first in American politics. An ex-congressman who had sex with a subordinate won clemency from a president who had sex with a subordinate, then was hired by a clergyman who had sex with a subordinate.

An Illinois jury convicted Reynolds in 1995 for having a sexual relationship with Beverly Heard, age 16. Their story reads like a low-rent Lolita. They first met in June 1992 when Reynolds was driving around Chicago’s Morgan Park High School.

“I was on my way home,” Heard testified. “Mr. Reynolds was in his car, and he stopped his car and gestured for me to come over to the car.” Heard said the representative offered his business card and soon began phoning to say how good she would look in the nude. Heard recalled that between June and November 1992, “most of the time when we saw each other, we had sex,” usually twice or thrice a week, including trysts in an apartment and at Reynolds’s congressional field office.

Heard eventually approached police who taped phone conversations in which Reynolds asked her to photograph the breasts and genitalia of “Theresa,” an imaginary 15-year-old girl Heard invented as bait. Reynolds asked Heard to arrange a three-way encounter with “Theresa.” When Heard told the legislator that “Theresa” was a Catholic school girl, Reynolds replied: “Did I win the Lotto?”

Reynolds was convicted of soliciting child pornography, criminal sexual assault, and obstruction of justice for trying to spirit Heard to Tennessee when the scandal broke. Under Illinois law, Reynolds must register with Chicago police as a convicted sex offender.

Given his own fall from grace, one might think Jackson would steer clear of Reynolds. But just eight days after Reynolds’ release, Jackson saluted him before 2,500 worshippers at Chicago’s Salem Baptist Church.

“Mel, when you come out of the fire, the fire separates the metal from the alloy,” Jackson declared. “Mel, you’ll come out stronger.” He then announced that Reynolds would join Rainbow/PUSH, not in a humbling position serving chicken soup to the homeless, but as a consultant on prison reform!

It also is ironic that Jesse “count all the votes” Jackson hired Reynolds given a charge on which he was jailed. Reynolds laundered and diverted into his campaign coffers political contributions earmarked for voter registration.

Jackson, meanwhile, faces fresh questions on his finances. Since Jackson bused in protesters to defend rioting thugs in Decatur, Illinois in November 1999, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly has asked a simple question: Where does Jackson get his money? Tax returns unveiled February 1 on The O’Reilly Factor indicate that Jackson’s Citizenship Education Fund raised $2,077,219 in 1998 and $9,919,914 in 1999. Meanwhile, it spent only $30,933 and $15,699 on education and research, in those years respectively. CEF dedicated just 0.39 percent of its budget to its stated purpose.

Where did the rest of the money go? Salaries and wages cost $1.5 million while non-itemized travel and conference expenses consumed $2,486,449 in 1999 alone.

CEF also lists $1.3 million in consulting fees. However, the IRS form requiring the names of consultants states, “None.” The $222,000 in unspecified miscellaneous expenses are nearly as mysterious as the $0 spent on fundraising fees, printing and publications.

In 1999, Jackson received $142,000 from AT&T, $375,000 from Bell Atlantic, $377,000 from Viacom, $500,000 from SBC and Ameritech and $625,000 from GTE, among other corporate patrons. As the New York Post’s Rod Dreher and the Chicago Sun-Times reported February 4, Jackson reversed his opposition to these companies’ merger plans after they donated to CEF and agreed to conduct joint ventures with minority-owned firms, including some tied to Jackson’s family.

Jesse Jackson fancies himself the president of Black America. What a nightmare for those of us who expect prominent blacks to be dignified. Jackson has exposed himself as a philandering shakedown artist who has embraced a pedophile. Until he crawls off the political stage, would someone please switch off his spotlight?

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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