By Ed O'Keefe
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The political career of Jesse L. Jackson Jr. on Wednesday essentially came to an end — at least for the immediate future — as the former Illinois Democratic congressman pleaded guilty to criminal charges against him and admitted using campaign funds to benefit himself and his wife.
The guilty plea caps a remarkable turn for a politician born into an active political family who many believed was destined to serve in Chicago City Hall, or the U.S. Senate, if not the White House.
The former congressman was born in 1965, in Greenville, S.C., while his father, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, was on the march to Selma. The Washington Post has documented Jackson's recent travails in several worthy reads, including an October profile by Manuel Roig-Franzia and two stories by Paul Kane, at the start — and conclusion — of Jackson's most recent travails.
Here's a quick recap of Jackson's rise and fall:
1989-1995: Jackson launches his political career as president of the Keep Hope Alive PAC, a job he held from 1989 to 1990. He then served as vice president of Operation PUSH (1991 to 1995) and as national field director for the National Rainbow Coalition (1993 to 1995).
1995: Jackson launches his campaign for Congress when Rep. Mel Reynolds, a Democrat resigns after his conviction for sexual assault stemming from a relationship with a teenager. Jackson prevails in a primary challenge and scores an easy victory in the general election.
1995-2012: As the representative of the Illinois 2nd Congressional District, Jackson uses a seat on the House Appropriations Committee to bring home roughly $600 million in federal funds. Picking up on an issue of Windy City concern, Jackson fought for the construction of a third Chicago airport, the proposed Abraham Lincoln National Airport, but the project never materialized.
A reliable liberal, Jackson voted with the Democratic caucus 97 percent of the time. He joined House Democrats in pushing for the impeachment of George W. Bush over his handling of the Iraq war, opposed the 2008 financial industry bailout and fought to abolish the Electoral College and for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing high-quality public education for all U.S. citizens.
December, 2004: Jackson undergoes a surgical procedure known as a "duodenal switch" that removes a large section of his digestive tract and helps him lose weight. He did not publicly disclose the surgery until several months later, saying in a 2005 interview that he lost 50 pounds through a strict diet. Observers initially speculated that Jackson's later diagnosis of bipolar disorder was tied to his surgery, but doctors denied those suggestions.
During the 2008 presidential campaign cycle: Jackson was an early supporter of then-Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign and bucked the advice of his father and senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As Paul Kane wrote, Jackson's support for Obama "wasn't just about passing the torch to the next crop of black leaders; it was also about Jackson's ambition. By the summer of 2008, he was among a handful of Illinois politicians courting the Senate appointment as Obama secured the nomination and then took a commanding lead in the general-election campaign."
April, 2009: Jackson announces that he's the subject of an Office of Congressional Ethics inquiry into his role in attempting to succeed Obama in the Senate. Jackson was referred to in the media as "Candidate A" in the April 2, 2009, indictment of then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill., which alleged that a Jackson emissary discussed raising money for the governor in exchange for promoting Jackson to the Senate seat.
June, 2010: Jackson's wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, reveals that her husband had an affair with a Washington nightclub hostess, something he later called "a private and personal matter between me and my wife."
June 8, 2012: Jackson casts his final vote in the House, according to The Washington Post Votes Database. Over the course of his congressional career, Jackson missed only a handful of votes.
June 25, 2012: Jackson's office formally announces that he's been on medical leave since June 10.
July 7, 2012: Jackson's office reveals that the congressman is being treated for a mood disorder. News reports later confirm he is at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Aug. 17, 2012: Aides release a photograph of Jackson visiting with former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Mass.. Both men have much in common as the sons of famous political fathers, who launched their own political careers and later sought treatment for mental illness.
Sept. 19, 2012: Jackson announces he is selling his multimillion dollar Dupont Circle-area home to help defray medical costs.
Nov. 21, 2012: Jackson formally resigns from Congress and signals in an emotional resignation letter that he is in talks with the Justice Department about striking a plea agreement.
Feb. 20, 2013: In federal court, Jackson admits to spending approximately $750,000 in campaign money on high-end items, including a Rolex watch, furs and pop-culture memorabilia. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud and faces a federal prison sentence ranging from 46 to 57 months.
As he leaves the courtroom, Jackson sees veteran Chicago political reporter Lynn Sweet and tells her: "Tell everybody back home, I'm sorry I let them down, okay?"