Not long after his election to Congress in 1995, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois was mentioned as having presidential potential. In the fall of 2008, the Democrat was on the media radar as a possible inheritor of Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. And he has long been viewed as a possible Chicago mayoral candidate.
All of that has now changed.
New reports have surfaced that the congressman was involved directly in efforts to trade millions of dollars in campaign funds for the vacated Obama Senate seat. The allegations also include damaging implications of an affair with a blond Washington, D.C. restaurant hostess.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago businessman and fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak told authorities that Jackson directed him to offer then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich $6 million if he would appoint Jackson to the seat. Allegedly, the plan was for Chicago's Indian community to raise $1 million for Blagojevich in return for the job and then Jackson would raise $5 million more for the governor once he was in the Senate.
Nayak also allegedly told authorities that at Jackson's request, he paid for plane tickets for a "social acquaintance" of the congressman to visit Jackson in Chicago. Her name is Giovana Huidobro, a hostess at Ozio, a Washington D.C. club.
But in his denial Jackson also included a reference to what Jackson called, "a personal matter."
"The reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago." Jackson said. "I ask that you respect our privacy."
Jackson went on to apologize for having "disappointed some supporters."
Jackson's re-election just over a month from now has been widely viewed as a lock and his name has frequently surfaced in connection with the brewing mayoral race after Richard Daley announced he would not seek another term. These new reports may change his political future.
Jackson's Most Serious Controversy Yet
Long time Chicago political consultant Don Rose said the best case for Jackson is that, "he will not be able to run for mayor. I can't see him risking it at this point."
As for his congressional re-election bid, veteran Democratic activist Delmarie Cobb told ABC affiliate WLS, "There's something wrong with the Republican Party both locally and nationally if they don't jump into this race."
But Rose said he doesn't see Jackson losing his heavily Democratic district. "You know the old saying, 'You'd have to be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy' in order to lose to a Republican in that district." Rose added that allegations surrounding the senate seat and suggestions of other bad behavior by the congressman, are not enough for him to lose his House seat..
While this is by far the most serious controversy swirling around the congressman, he has faced others in the past.
Not long after Obama's success on the national stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Jackson appeared in public suddenly much slimmer. He initially attributed his weight loss of more than 50 pounds to exercise, diet, even "shots in the butt."
But persistent questions about his new look forced him to admit that he had undergone weight reduction surgery.
Years ago, Jesse Jackson Jr. emerged from the shadow of his famous father and had been viewed as a political force in his own right. Now a different kind of shadow is darkening his future.