Like most of Chicago’s teachers, Chicago-area Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was a no show in Congress again Tuesday; votes were cast, but his constituents weren't heard from. Jackson has missed a long string of votes this year.
Jackson mysteriously dropped off the political radar in early June and is reportedly being treated for a bipolar II disorder after rumors swirled for months about his whereabouts.
However Jackson’s constituents and congressional colleagues didn’t know where the congressman was for weeks, not until June 25, just in time for the deadline for independent candidates to challenge Jackson on the November ballot. Suddenly news came that the congressman had taken a leave of absence for “exhaustion,” according to a Chicago Tribune report.
More bits of information followed, according to ChicagoMag.com. For example a July 5 statement claimed he was being treated for serious “physical and emotional ailments,” but the statement lacked any details.
On July 11, news leaked that Jackson was receiving “intensive medical treatment” at an unnamed medical center. It was learned later that he was an inpatient at Sierra Tucson in Arizona being treated for a “mood disorder.”
AS rumors about the congressman’s health and whereabouts swirled, later in July the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota publicly acknowledged that Jackson had checked in “for extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues.”
But more news was coming. On August 13 a second Mayo statement advised Jackson was suffering from bipolar II depression, also known as manic depression.
By September 11, Jackson was reportedly in recluse at his home in Washington DC, and the 47-year-old congressman has already missed approximately 100 congressional votes.
Jackson remains under investigation for his part in jailed former governor Rod Blagojevich’s corruption conviction. He disappeared just days before his friend and former campaign fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak, a key figure in the Senate-seat-for-sale scandal, was arrested and indicted on fraud charges involving his outpatient surgery centers.
Nayak, under a grant of immunity in 2010, told federal investigators that Jackson told him to offer millions in campaign cash to Governor Rod Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Jackson to Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has denied those charges.
More depressing, from Mr. Jackson’s perspective, Nayak told investigators that he purchased plane tickets to fly Giovana Huidobro, a lounge worker and former swimsuit model who was Jackson’s mistress at the time, from Washington to Chicago during weekends that Jackson was in his DC district.
Meanwhile, Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, his wife, typically flew to D.C. on weekends to be with the couple’s two children.
Beyond the painful drama and personal challenges Jackson faces, is the congressional seat he was elected to in order to conduct business as a U.S. congressional representative. The seat is empty and the district’s voice is silent.
Perhaps it is time Jackson handlers advise him to reclaim his seat or seek unpaid medical leave. As a congressman he is entitled to a generous government pension and lifetime medical care, and more importantly, the people are entitled to due representation.