More than $10,000 was spent at Best Buy. A Martha's Vineyard retreat cost $5,687. The Jacksons even billed two shopping trips to a Build-A-Bear Workshop, according to the documents.
Jackson also spent more than $60,000 "at restaurants, nightclubs, and lounges," as well as more than $5,800 for alcohol and more than $17,000 at tobacco shops, prosecutors said. Jackson is known as a cigar aficionado.
- Photos: Jesse Jackson Jr. through the years
- Video: Jackson Jr. pleads guilty
- Timeline: The fall of Jesse Jackson Jr.
- Jesse Jackson Jr wife Sandi leave court
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- South Exchange Avenue & South Yates Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60649, USA
One of the most curious purchases took place in the spring of 2011.
In a transaction arranged by Person A, a onetime campaign treasurer, campaign funds were used to pay a taxidermist in Montana $7,058 for two mounted elk heads that were shipped to Jackson's congressional office in Washington. But a year later, with the federal investigation brewing, Person A tried to sell the heads, prosecutors said.
With federal investigators already watching, the move led to an FBI sting operation where an undercover employee of the FBI posing as an interior designer offered to buy the heads at a loss. Prosecutors said $5,300 was wired to Jackson's personal bank account.
Shawn Andres, a taxidermist who owns Alpine Artistry in Arlee, Mont., told the Tribune he was not the person who handled the sale, nor did he know which colleague did. But he did have an observation, saying Jackson paid "top dollar" for his elk heads.
"So that's a significant amount of money," Andres said. "$1,800 is about the most you should be spending for an elk head."
Federal prosecutors said Person A — involved in the elk head sale — was the treasurer of Jackson's campaign until 2008. Separate campaign records identify that aide as Terri Eileen Jones, 62, of Columbia, Md. Person B, a second treasurer, held that post after Jones, and is identified in separate campaign documents as Vickie L. Pasley, 57, of Chicago. Neither could be reached for comment.
Often personal spending was made to look like campaign expenses on official forms, prosecutors said in court filings. A 2008 expense of more than $1,500 for space for a fundraiser purportedly at the Museum of Science and Industry really went for porcelain collectibles, prosecutors said, and $224 for a "FR dinner meeting" at the Peninsula Hotel actually was the tab for a family lunch.
Legal experts said the case is without question headed to Chicago's hall of shame for disgraced politicians — one that just in recent years welcomed two governors, a series of aldermen and another congressman, Dan Rostenkowski, who pleaded guilty in 1996 to diverting taxpayer dollars to his own use.
But the brazeness of the Jackson case makes it unique, some said. Former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta, now in private practice, said he would not be surprised to see the defense use that element to its advantage at sentencing.
"The outlandishness of it may actually play into the idea that he was suffering from some sort of mental illness at the time," said Acosta, who noted Chicago has seen its share of the misuse of campaign money. "But not to that degree."
In recent years when he was in Congress and she was on the Council, the Jackson's combined annual salaries as public officials totaled more than $270,000.
The day had started with an unusual sight in a city accustomed to seeing Jackson and his well-known father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, at official events. Members of the family looked somber and were linked arm-in-arm as they headed into federal court.
Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, both Democrats, wore dark suits to court, and switched places in a chair just behind the defense table as each stood before the judge to enter a plea at their separate hearings four hours apart.
Jesse Jackson Jr. was first to speak to the judge, and summed up his conduct in a short statement.
"Sir, for years I lived (off) my campaign. I used monies that should have been used for campaign purposes, and I used them for myself personally, to benefit me personally," Jackson said. "And I am acknowledging that that which the government has presented is accurate."
In the afternoon, it was Sandi Jackson's turn. But unlike her husband, she answered the judge's questions only with a string of "Yes, sirs," and sniffled loudly and dabbed her face as it came time to enter her plea.
"Guilty," she said in a tiny voice, choking back tears.
The "statement of offense" filed in Sandi Jackson's case alleges she failed to report at least $15,000 in taxable income earned through her political consulting firm, J. Donatella & Associates. Her husband's congressional fund paid that firm at least $452,500 since 2002, federal campaign reports show. Prosecutors said she knowingly failed to report nearly $570,000 in taxable income over six years ending in 2011, leading to an estimated tax loss of about $159,000.