US Congressman denies allegations of corruption

A prominent US congressman has denied allegations that he directed an Indian-American businessman to offer former Illinois Governor millions of dollars in exchange for being appointed to the US Senate seat.

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2010, 16:29 PM IST

Chicago: A prominent US congressman has
denied allegations that he directed an Indian-American
businessman to offer former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
millions of dollars in exchange for being appointed to the US
Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, son of civil rights leader
Rev Jesse Jackson and a potential candidate for Chicago mayor,
has denied knowing about any offers made on his behalf ever
since allegations first surfaced following Blagojevich`s 2008
arrest on charges he schemed to sell or trade the Senate
appointment.

Just last week, Jackson denied any role in the attempt to
buy a Senate seat vacated by then President-elect Barack
Obama. Jackson is also contemplating to run for Mayor of
Chicago. Jackson`s wife, Sandi, is also a possible mayoral
candidate although she does not seem interested in it anymore.

Raghuveer Nayak, an Oak Brook-based businessman, also
told authorities that he paid for two airline trips for a
"social acquaintance" of the Democratic congressman at
Jackson`s request, raising more potential ethical and
political problems for Jackson, according to the Sun-Times
newspaper.

FBI has also interrogated the "acquaintance" - a
Washington D C restaurant hostess Giovana Huidobro about a
year ago. Huidobro, Jackson, and Nayak all dined together on
October 8, 2008, the same day Nayak told FBI he had held talks
with Jackson about the senate seat, according to sources.

Later the three ended up at the Ozio restaurant, where
Jackson has held some fundraisers. Huidobro has said that she
does not know anything about the political dealings of Jackson
and she flew to Chicago on Jackson`s request and that he
sometimes reimbursed her for her travel.

The newspaper further added that Jackson has not been
charged with any crime. Nor has Nayak, who contributed USD
12,000 to Jackson`s congressional campaign between 2001 and
2006.

In addition, Nayak also faces his own federal scrutiny,
including a current IRS inquiry involving his business
dealings with state official and fund-raiser Rajinder Bedi.
Although Nayak and Bedi have not been charged, their taped
conversations have been played in the court before Judge James
Zagel.
Nayak was a close family friend of the Jacksons. Nayak
was also a business partner with Jonathan, Jesse`s brother.

At Blagojevich`s trial in the summer, Bedi said he,
Jackson, and Nayak were present at an October 28 meeting in
which fund-raising for Blagojevich was discussed in exchange
for Jackson`s appointment.

But at an October 8 meeting, Nayak said that Jackson told
him to approach Blagojevich with a USD 6 million offer in
exchange for a senate seat. However, Jacskon denies all this
and said he never made any offer to Nayak.

Nayak, who was a Blagojevich fund-raiser, said that
Jackson asked him to tell Blagojevich that if the
then-governor appointed Jackson to the US Senate, Chicago`s
Indian community would raise USD 1 million for Blagojevich and
-- after Jackson was appointed -- Jackson would raise USD 5
million for the then-governor, the `Chicago Sun-Times`
reported.

Nayak`s lawyer, Thomas McQueen, confirmed that his client
discussed with FBI about the October 8 meeting and provided
documents to authorities involving his dealings with Jackson,
it added.

A December 4, 2008, phone call between the Robert and Rod
Blagojevich shed more light. After much persuasion, and
dismissing Jackson for sometime, Rod said he was "elevating"
Jackson in his estimation and that he was looking for
something "tangible upfront" from Nayak since the Washington
lobby members was "freaking out".

At the trial Robert said that he was approached twice by
Indian fundraisers offering money for Jackson.

Inspite of repeatedly defending his innocence in
improvised news conferences, on Twitter, Larry King Live and
even on Donald Trump`s Show `Celebrity Apprentice`,
Blagojevich was convicted in August on one count of lying to
the FBI.

Blagojevich`s trial is set to begin in January 2011. His
brother`s (Robert) case has been dismissed.

PTI