Illinois politicians have a reputation for being kind of gangsta, but in an ironic twist, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is getting a bad taste of Chicago-style politicking, Texas-style. He’s one of three local lawmakers who’ve been targeted by the Houston-based super PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability.
Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of political contributions from individuals, corporations and unions in support of or opposition to a candidate but cannot coordinate or work directly with campaigns. A similar group supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent millions of dollars to slay Newt Gingrich in Iowa and Florida with negative advertising before the states' primaries and is gearing up to do it again in upcoming contests. It also will likely target sudden contender Rick Santorum.
Jackson has denounced the group as “anti-Democrat,” but it in fact targets lawmakers on both sides of the ideological aisle. Spokesman Curtis Ellis told Crain’s Chicago Business that its “underlying motivation is to make Congress more representative of the wishes of the people” by leveling the playing field for candidates challenging incumbents. In the weeks leading to the March 20 primary, the group plans to send out anti-Jackson robo-calls, emails and mailings.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the eight-term lawmaker, who is dealing with his first serious Democratic primary challenger in a newly drawn district, former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. She has been relentless in her effort to cast him as ethically challenged, hammering Jackson about an ethics investigation into whether he tried to buy President Obama’s old Senate seat, asking a donor to pay for his then-mistress to fly to and from Chicago and most recently, his ties to airport developer SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian firm under investigation for trying to smuggle one of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons to Mexico. The company is Jackson’s choice to build an airport that he’s been fighting to have built in the state since his first day in Congress.
In an interview with a local television station, Jackson acknowledged that he’s worried the super PAC’s actions will harm his re-election bid.
“So we will put up the best fight we possibly can against great financial odds," said Jackson, adding that Halvorson is benefiting from the effort.
Halvorson disagrees and says that if Jackson was doing his job they wouldn’t be targeting him.
“They’re not trying to help me. They’re trying to get rid of him,” she said.
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(Photo:KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)