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Jesse Jackson Jr.'s condition 'more serious than initially believed'

July 05, 2012|Chicago Tribune staff
  • In this file photo from March of this year, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) thanks supporters at his election-night party in Chicago.
In this file photo from March of this year, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)… (M. Spencer Green / AP File…)

A week after U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. announced he was taking a leave of absence, his office released a statement Thursday saying his condition is "more serious than initially believed" and that he is being treated at an "in-patient facility."

In a statement that contained few details, the Illinois Democrat’s office said: "Recently we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time. According to the preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, Congressman Jackson will need to receive extended in-patient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter."

The statement gave no further details on Jackson's medical condition or where or how he's being treated.

"We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period,” the brief statement ended.

On June 25, Jackson announced that he had begun a medical leave back on June 10. The announcement said he was suffering from exhaustion.

The announcement was released just before 5 p.m. Central Time on June 25. That was also the deadline for independent candidates to file nomination papers to run for Jackson's seat in the November election, according to Rupert Borgsmiller, the State Board of Elections' executive director.

Frank Watkins, Jackson's Washington spokesman, insisted there was no link between the delay in making the news public and the filing deadline. "That was not a factor at all," he said.

Jackson will face two rivals Nov. 6: Brian Woodworth, a Republican from Bourbonnais, and Marcus Lewis, an independent from Matteson.

In the days before the announcement, a longtime friend of Jackson's, Raghuveer Nayak, was arrested on federal fraud charges involving Nayak's surgical centers. Nayak was at the center of the U.S. Senate seat scandal that sent former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison.

Jackson, 47, who has distanced himself from Nayak, remains under a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that Nayak offered Blagojevich up to $6 million in campaign cash to make the congressman President Barack Obama's successor in the U.S. Senate.

Nayak had told federal investigators that Jackson asked him to raise campaign money for Blagojevich in the hopes that the then-governor would appoint Jackson to the seat, sources familiar with the investigation have told the Tribune. Jackson has denied any knowledge of fundraising in exchange for the appointment and has said he expects to be vindicated by the ethics panel.

In a statement he issued in 2010, Jackson did not deny Nayak's allegation that he paid to fly a female "social acquaintance" of Jackson from Washington to Chicago at Jackson's request. The lawmaker said then that the reference to a "social acquaintance" was a "private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago."

Despite the controversies, Jackson in March handily won a Democratic primary challenge from former one-term Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete.

House records show Jackson, who prides himself on his strong voting attendance, last voted about noon June 8. The House was in recess the next week, and the following week, Jackson was listed as "not voting" for more than 30 House votes.

Jackson has also missed a fundraiser. His campaign sent out invitations for a June 19 breakfast at a Washington restaurant, with tiered contribution levels of $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000. The event was canceled, Watkins said.

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