Many Chicago area readers are already familiar with the criminal charges that were recently brought against Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi. Recently the two appeared before a federal judge and entered guilty pleas to a variety of charges stemming from misuse of campaign funds.
According to prosecutors, the Jacksons misused approximately $750,000 that was donated for campaign purposes, spending it instead on personal goods and services ranging from toothpaste to a retreat at Martha's Vineyard. Mr. Jackson bears the majority of the charges in this case and is expected to appear in court again to discuss the effect that his recently diagnosed bipolar disorder has had on his conduct with regards to the campaign funds.
While Ms. Jackson is not accused of personally committing the same level of crimes as Mr. Jackson, she is charged with conspiring with him to commit those crimes, which include mail fraud and wire fraud. As this case makes clear, conspiracy charges are very serious and can lead to lengthy sentences and other types of penalties. Many people don't realize that conspiracy charges can be brought in cases where someone simply went along with the scheme without actively participating in the wrongdoing.
The other big issue that this case brings to light is the incredibly tight restrictions on campaign spending. Many people probably seek candidates flying around on private planes and wearing expensive clothing and believe that campaign donations can be spent for personal comfort and luxury goods. However, the federal and state government both have strict standards for how campaign donations can be spent and candidates or campaign workers who violate those laws are criminally liable.
Source: Chicago Sun Times, "Jesse Jackson Jr. answers 'ultimate' question: 'I am guilty, your honor," Natasha Korecki, Lynn Sweet and Maudlyne Iherjirika, Feb. 20, 3013.
Information about white collar crimes is available on our federal crimes page.