Recent Ethics Probe Won't Change Rep. Jesse Jackson's Re-Election Prospects

Jesse Jackson, Jr. faces ethics probes, absences. But he's unlikely to lose his re-election bid.

A May 16, 2011 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago.

A May 16, 2011, file photo shows U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago.

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While his campaign has gone undetected in Chicago for months, Illinois Democrat Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s campaign is back in the spotlight Monday after reports surfaced that federal investigators are looking into whether the congressman inappropriately spent campaign money on a redesign of his home.

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According to the Wall Street Journal, the Jackson campaign tried to negotiate with the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, D.C., and the FBI to keep the results of the investigation under wraps until after the November election, but the U.S. Attorney said no.

The reported federal probe comes as another is still unfolding in the House, where the Committee on Ethics is investigating whether an advocate for Jackson raised money to convince then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint Jackson to the U.S. Senate.

No matter how damaging, it's unlikely the recent allegations will affect Jackson's reelection prospects.

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"He has got a lot of problems going on right now, but he still will win," says Wayne Steger, a political science professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

Jackson hasn't appeared publicly for a campaign event since June, when he took an abrupt leave of absence from Congress to undergo treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Even Jackson's website looks as if he's out of the race. The last time a press release was updated to the site was on March 7 when Jackson was entrenched in a bitter primary battle against his former opponent Debbie Halvorson.

Jackson's office isn't talking about the most recent ethics probe, and in the 2nd Congressional District, the Jackson campaign might not have to.

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Despite his continuing absence from both Capitol Hill and the campaign trail, Jackson remains popular back home on the South Side of Chicago, a heavily minority district where the Jackson family name holds strong. And he faces no serious opposition to his re-election bid.

"Once he beat me in the primary, he knew that was it," Halvorson says. "I am very bothered by this because he has always worked by his own rules. This is very sad for the people of the district."

Jackson's Republican challenger, Brian Woodworth, hasn't received financial backing from the GOP establishment and records show his campaign has raised just over $11,000 so far to go up against Jackson's $630,000 war chest.

But even if Jackson is re-elected it's uncertain when he might return to work.

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Jackson's wife Sandi is running her husband's reelection bid and told supporters earlier this month that she wasn't sure when her husband could return to take office.

"I believe at some point in time he will come back," she said. "I don't know whether that will be before the election or after the election, but whenever that happens, we will welcome him."

Jackson's been absent on the campaign trail, but news reports surfaced Monday that the congressman was seen on two separate occasions with two different women at a D.C. bar.

"This adds to the continued negative news that keeps coming his way," Steger says. "Problems that he is dealing with have to be weighing on him personally, but it's not weighing on his race."

Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at