Federal prosecutors have nabbed two for the price of one in their latest corruption probe in Illinois.
The state of Illinois and its well-entrenched culture of corruption is once again on national display — and subject to national ridicule — following last week's disclosure that former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has agreed to plead guilty to misusing campaign funds.
There is much more to it than that, to the point that the case, even by Illinois standards, has its own unique twist.
Not only will Jackson plead guilty, but so will his wife, Sandra. He's pleading guilty to misusing more than $700,000 in campaign funds while she'll cop to charges that she knowingly signed false federal income tax returns.
The Jacksons, by virtue of their family celebrity, once were one of Illinois' top political couples. Now 47, he has been a member of the U.S. House since he was 30. She was a member of the Chicago City Council, although she rarely attended meetings because she was living in Washington, D.C.
But there always was less to them than met the eye. Jackson Jr. was a bit player in the U.S. House while his wife was a nonentity on the city council. Both seemed more interested in feathering their own nests than actually following through on their promises of public service.
Indeed, Jackson's current legal woes may stem from his efforts in 2008 to secure appointment to President Obama's old U.S. Senate seat. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who's now serving a lengthy prison sentence, was convicted of, among other things, trying to sell Obama's seat to the highest bidder. The suspected highest bidder was Jackson, acting through his personal representatives.
The feds broke up the scheme before it could come to fruition, and their examination of Jackson's practices led to the discovery of his misuse of campaign funds.
Suffice it to say, his arrogance in handling his campaign cash is astounding. His purchases included a $44,000 Rolex watch, $9,000-plus on children's furniture and $5,150 on fur capes and parkas.
"Among the items he bought were Bruce Lee memorabilia, a black and red cashmere cape and a Michael Jackson hat. Well, at least he didn't waste the money on something stupid," comedian Jay Leno joked on NBC's Tonight Show.
The Jacksons' activities are legitimate topics of humor. But the unfortunate bottom line is that it isn't funny.
Once again, the people of Illinois have been betrayed by their elected officials. It's all the more distasteful considering that Jackson's constituents rank among this country's poorest people.
Of course, this is old hat to those who have followed Illinois' peculiar political practices. Residents of this state are so used to corruption in government that they usually just laugh it off as business as usual.
That's an understandable reaction. But it's also part of the problem. Until citizens demand more from their elected officials, only the names of corrupt politicians will change. The sickening misconduct of our elected class will continue unabated.