In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, the 17-year lawmaker said:
The constituents of the Second District deserve a full-time legislator in Washington, something I cannot be for the foreseeable future. My health issues and treatment regimen have been incompatible with service in the House of Representatives. Therefore, it is with great regret that I hereby resign as a member of the United States House of Representatives, effective today, in order to focus on restoring my health.
During this journey I have made my fair share of mistakes. I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone. None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right. It has been a profound honor to serve the constituents of Illinois’ Second Congressional District and I thank them for their patience, their words of support and prayers during what has been, and what will continue to be, a very trying time for me and my family.
Despite winning re-election by a commanding margin earlier this month, Jackson's political career had clearly run its course. He has reportedly been negotiating a plea deal with federal authorities that could involve jail time for the alleged misuse of campaign funds to redecorate his home and purchase a Rolex watch.
The House Ethics Committee also is looking into allegations about whether the longtime congressman participated in a "pay to play" scheme to win an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat Barack Obama vacated in 2008.
Jackson's staff in June initially said that he was taking a medical leave for exhaustion — after he'd already been absent from Capitol Hill for two weeks. He later entered the Mayo Clinic to seek treatment for both mental health and gastrointestinal issues. Jackson returned home to Washington in September but returned to Mayo in October, soon after news broke about the federal investigation. He left the clinic again earlier this month, but his whereabouts have not been disclosed.
During his absence, Jackson, once a Democratic rising star, communicated with his constituents just twice. In a robocall before the Nov. 6 election, he asked for their patience. After winning re-election, he issued a statement thanking them.
His constituents in large part supported him, but both the timing and the mystery surrounding his absence have invited speculation, the Associated Press reports, because it occurred shortly after a friend and former fundraiser who is connected to the "pay to play" scandal involving now-imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on other unrelated charges.
Democratic allies appeared to sympathize with Jackson and his struggles, but in recent weeks increasingly have called on him to be more forthcoming about his future plans.
Under Illinois law, Gov. Pat Quinn has five days to schedule an election to replace Jackson, which must be held within 115 days.
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(Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)