Residents of the 2nd Congressional District deserve better than they have received from recent congressmen.
On Friday, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, former Chicago City Council member Sandi Jackson, agreed to plead guilty to federal charges related to the improper use of campaign funds to support a lavish lifestyle.
He is charged with conspiracy, and she is charged with filing false joint federal income tax returns for 2006 through 2011. Prosecutors say they used $750,000 in campaign funds to buy a $43,000 gold watch, furs, celebrity memorabilia and other pricey items. Upon conviction, under the terms of the plea agreement, the Jacksons would have to forfeit $750,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars worth of memorabilia and furs.
The charges came after Jesse Jackson Jr. left his constituents without representation for months, not even having his staff tell the public that he was seeking care for a bipolar disorder.
Jackson didn't even have the decency to withdraw his name from the Nov. 6 ballot, forcing a special election — two, when you consider the Feb. 26 primary — to replace him in Congress. It is an extra expense Illinois taxpayers didn't need.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. says he hopes his son's apology will be accepted. Yes, of course, but neither remorse nor treatment for mental illness is an excuse for committing the crimes he has been charged with, and to which he has pleaded guilty.
The problem here isn't just the charges against Jesse Jr. and his wife, but that the 2nd Congressional District has had poor representation for so long.
Residents of the 2nd District have suffered not just because of Jackson, but because of a history of lousy congressmen.
Jackson's predecessor, Mel Reynolds, spent 36 months in federal prison for criminal sexual assault involving a 16-year-old campaign worker.
Reynolds' predecessor, Gus Savage, was censured for reportedly propositioning a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire.
So now it's Jackson's turn to face the music. But it's the voters' turn to choose wisely, in the primary and in the general election. The criminal justice system must work well, but so too must the voters.