US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr quietly resigned on Wednesday, effectively ending a once-promising political career months after the civil rights icon’s son went on a mysterious medical leave while facing separate federal investigations.
Just two weeks after voters re-elected him to a ninth full term, Jackson sent his resignation letter to US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, citing his ongoing treatment for bipolar disorder and admitting “my share of mistakes.”
The House Ethics Committee is investigating his dealings with imprisoned former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, and for the first time Jackson publicly acknowledged reports of a new federal probe believed to be looking into his possible misuse of campaign money.
“I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators and accept responsibility for my mistakes,” he wrote, adding that “they are my mistakes and mine alone.”
Jackson, 47, disappeared in June, and it was later revealed that he was being treated at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues.
He returned to his Washington home in September, but went back to the clinic the next month, with his father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, saying his son had not yet “regained his balance.”
On Wednesday night, Jackson told reporters that his son resigned because he did not believe he could continue with his political career and try to regain his health at the same time.
“He made the decision to choose his health,” Jackson said.
The elder Jackson said that his son had wanted to hold a news conference to discuss his decision to step down, but did not believe he could do so without “breaking down.”
He also said there was no way of knowing how long it would take for his son to recover from what he characterized as an “internal unresolved challenge.”
“It’s not the kind of illness you can put a timetable on,” Jackson said, adding that he is confident that his son “will get well in time.”
Jackson first took office in 1995 after winning a special election in a largely urban and Democratic district and began his career in Washington with a star power and pedigree that set him apart from his hundreds of other House colleagues.
However, despite high expectations, he went largely unnoticed as a policymaker. Instead, he gained a reputation for quixotic pursuits, such as trying to impeach then-US president George W. Bush and push through constitutional amendments that had no chance.
Perhaps his shining moment as a Democratic leader was in 2008, when Jackson served as the national co-chair of US President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He had his sights set on US senator or Chicago’s mayor.
Then came Blagojevich.
Though never charged, Jackson had to repeatedly dodge allegations that he was involved in discussions about raising campaign funds for the now-imprisoned former governor in exchange for an appointment to Obama’s vacated US Senate seat.
Afterward, the congressman kept a low profile for years, avoiding interview requests and avoiding public appearances.