House probe: Jesse Jackson Jr.'s staff wanted Bill Cosby to pitch Blagojevich for Obama's seat

December 2, 2011

(File/AP)

The U.S. House ethics committee announced on Friday that it will continue its investigation of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. The panel also released hundreds of pages of documents from the inquiry.

The ethics committee stressed in a statement that just because it's keeping the investigation open "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred."

The inquiry centers on whether Jackson was involved in pay-to-play offers, or used taxpayer resources, when the Chicago Democrat tried to win a U.S. Senate appointment from then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

According to testimony at Blagojevich's two corruption trials, supporters of Jackson offered the governor millions in campaign contributions if he appointed Jackson to the Senate.

The committee on Friday released more than 300 pages, including notes from interviews with the congressman, his staff and his brother. At the bottom of the stack was a copy of talking points prepared by Jackson's staff, apparently intended to help comedian Bill Cosby call Blagojevich to urge Jackson's appointment. The documents do not mention whether Cosby ever made the call. (See page 297 of attached report below)

The documents also include a brief written by Jackson's lawyers that said he "acted honorably at all times" and was never aware of any pay-to-play offers. The lawyers argued that any government resources used in his non-"traditional" campaign for the Senate appointment were "permissible" under exceptions in the House rules.

In a statement, Jackson said, "For the first time in three years my side of the story will be made public and for that I am grateful."

Jackson faces a primary election challenge in March from former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who's criticized him for "ethical distractions."

The ethics committee's investigation had long been stalled at the request of the U.S. Justice Department. The inquiry resumed after Blagojevich's conviction this summer, including on charges that he attempted to profit from his power to appoint a U.S. senator.

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. OCE REPORT