WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The political career of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. could be jeopardized by a congressional ethics inquiry into his finagling for the Senate seat vacated by President Obama, a well-known black political analyst said.
"The stakes for him are dire," said Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland professor well-known for his analysis of black politics and politicians.
"A negative report can damage his political career," Walters said. "And if he is sanctioned or otherwise punished he could have a stain on his record and, come election time, he could have a challenger that would use that against him."
The Office of Congressional Ethics, a bipartisan panel of un-elected officials, was investigating whether Jackson was involved in the alleged "pay-to-play" scheme for which former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was indicted last week, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.
When that group completes its preliminary investigation, it will make a recommendation to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the ethics committee, for a formal review.
Jackson insists he will be exonerated.
"As I said when the Blagojevich scandal first broke back in December, I have done nothing wrong and reject pay-to-play politics," he said in a statement issued after the Sun-Times story. "I'm confident that this new ethics office — which I voted in favor of creating — will be able to conduct a fair and expeditious review and dismiss this matter."
Even if his name is cleared, "there's bound to be some lingering effect" because of the high distaste the public has for this case, Walters said.
At home, though, that effect may be easier to counteract.
"His constituents could choose to turn a blind eye if this thing turns out badly. He's been a good congressman in terms of bringing home the bacon," Walters said, pointing to Jackson's push to build a third airport in the south suburbs of Chicago as a means of creating jobs and boosting the local economy.
The halls of Capitol Hill, where Jackson was largely regarded as a lawmaker on the rise, may be tougher territory to conquer, however. Even a hint of scandal could make it harder for Jackson to rally support behind efforts to hold leadership positions in House committees, chair the Congressional Black Caucus or make another bid for the Senate.
And the former national co-chair of Obama's presidential campaign may even find it difficult to secure a White House appointment, "which people thought he would get if this hadn't turned up," Walters said.
But Walters said Jackson's problems likely won't damage broader black political power in Washington.
"There are too many of them [black politicians]," he said. "If you had a small number of members and you had half of them in trouble that would be different."