Cover of "It's About the Money!: How You ...
Yes, Jesse Jackson Jr., It’s All About the Money, But Your Money, Not Private Campaign Funds

COMMENTARY:  Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandra Jackson, have sold out the people of Chicago because they allowed avarice and hypocrisy to get in the way of serving the people of their district. They perpetuated a major fraud — acting as though they cared for the plight of their constituents, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, all the while raiding his campaign coffers for cheap thrills and to live the high life. Something sinister runs through the political vein in Chicago because this is hardly the first time a politician from the Windy City has been mired in criminal behavior.

The one-time heir apparent to Barack Obama’s Senate seat, has literally fallen off a steep precipice. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife represented so much promise in their constituency but they join a long list of corrupt Illinois politicians, in it only for their own personal gain at any cost. In no uncertain terms, this was a massive betrayal of public trust. While Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sandi were dining at four star restaurants, staying in high-end hotels and sending their kids to elite private schools, their constituents were sending their kids to struggling Chicago public schools and struggling to stay afloat financially. Jesse and Sandi Jackson stole from constituents of modest means such as senior citizens on a fixed income. These people donated their hard-earned money to help him coast to a win, election after election and then what did he do? Kick them in the gut.

I am reminded of a book Jesse Jackson Jr. penned with his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. — It’s About the Money!in which he gave lessons on how to acquire wealth, get access to capital and achieve your financial dreams. The synopsis states that “the first three steps — emancipation from slavery, ending legal segregation, and securing the right to vote — formed the basis for the fourth movement of the Freedom Symphony.””The Freedom Symphony brings access to capital and financial independence.”  I was a little perturbed by the Jacksons chiding the black community for their “shameless spending.” Um, talk about the pot cursing the kettle black. I guess he forgot to follow his own advice.

Let’s revisit what Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife did with $750,000 in campaign contributions:

Chicago Tribune:  “About 3,100 personal purchases were made on campaign credit cards, totaling $582,772.58… Prosecutors said $60,000 was spent on restaurants, nightclubs and lounges; $31,700 on personal airfare; $16,000 on sports clubs and lounges; $17,000 on tobacco shops; $5,800 on alcohol; $14,500 on dry cleaning; $8,000 on grocery stores and $6,000 at drug stores.”

“In one of the more exotic purchases, Jackson used campaign funds in the spring of 2011 to pay a taxidermist in Montana $7,058 for two mounted elk heads to be shipped to his office in Washington. This was the beginning of an FBI sting, according to court documents.”

I am all for second chances because we have all failed in some way in our lives, but this was a punch in the gut of many, particularly the black community. When the name of Rev. Jesse Jackson is invoked, it often results in eye rolls and sighs because many people are skeptical of any message emanating from his lips.  Though he is not responsible for the actions of his adult son, it feeds into the notion that the Jackson family isn’t all it seems to be. Seems like stuff is always getting in the way of their — a baby from an extramarital affair as in the case of the elder Jackson, bipolar disorder as in the case of the younger Jackson and an undeniably huge load of avarice on the latter’s part.

At the end of the day, I have to ask, how could Jesse Jackson Jr. keep a straight face while telling millions of working class Americans how to manage their money and plan for the future? This is while he was being blinded by thousands of dollars in private campaign funds, which he and his wife used to buy ridiculous things — Michael Jackson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bruce Lee memorabilia, taxidermy services, gold-plated Rolex watch, vacations, fur parkas, a Michael Jackson fedora, furniture, among other things.

On the flip side, there has to be a deeper motivation for their behavior beyond betraying the American people, which is reprehensible enough. Were they trying to impress the people in Washington D.C. that they were very wealthy? You know trying to keep up with the creme de la creme of the D.C. scene. To borrow a phrase from Michelle Singletary, as the son of a civil rights leader, was Jesse Jackson Jr. trying to appear wealthy by any means necessary? The pretend-to-be-rich syndrome will backfire and you will be left in an ugly place like Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife.

The message from Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife’s downfall is simple — don’t live beyond your means or you will find yourself in a black hole that could lead to criminal behavior, as in their case. So, while many have no right to point a finger at the Jacksons from the standpoint of living beyond one’s means, it would be good to reexamine where you stand with your finances and ascertain if you are knee-deep in debt or debt-free. If you are truly free or in financial bondage. Financial follies are nothing new, but recognizing the errors, fixing them quickly and not repeating them again are paramount. Buy what you need, not what you want, particularly when you have limited financial means.

It’s ironic that Judy Smith, the crisis manager who is the inspiration behind the hit ABC series “Scandal,” privately consoled Jesse Jr. and his wife at the time of their guilty pleas.

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