After a long struggle with medical and legal problems, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. resigned from Congress on Wednesday, citing failing health as the reason he is stepping down after 17 years but adding he is cooperating with a federal investigation “into my activities.”
The Illinois Democrat, 47, who earlier this month won a 10th term to the House, sent House Speaker John A. Boehner a letter informing the Ohio Republican of his decision, the speaker’s office said.
Mr. Jackson took a leave of absence from the House in June, citing exhaustion, and hasn’t returned. Later it was revealed he was receiving treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Despite not campaigning for re-election, he defeated his Republican challenger this month by 40 percentage points.
Under Illinois law, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has five days to schedule an election to replace Mr. Jackson after he receives official notice, and the election must be held within 115 days.
A Democrat is highly likely to win the district, which includes South Chicago and some if its suburbs. In the meantime, House Democrats will have one less member in their caucus during the busy end-of-year lame duck session.
Mr. Jackson, the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, had planned on a press conference to announce his resignation but was not able to bring himself to speak about it because of his illness, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, citing an unnamed source.
New reports have circulated for months that the younger Mr. Jackson is under federation investigation on accusations he was involved in discussions about raising money for then-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s campaign in exchange for Blagojevich appointing him to President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. Investigators haven’t confirmed the existence of such a probe.
But Mr. Jackson acknowledged in his House resignation letter he was “aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities” and that he was doing his “best to address the situation responsibly.”
Adding to his troubles is a House Ethics Committee investigation reportedly looking into his dealings with the disgraced former governor, who was sentenced in late 2011 to 14 years in prison on a corruption conviction involving the Obama Senate seat inquiry.
Mr. Jackson also is accused of instructing longtime friend and fundraiser Raghuveer Nayak to buy plane tickets for a woman described as Mr. Jackson’s “social acquaintance.” The congressman has called it a personal matter that he has dealt with privately with his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson.
Mr. Jackson has not been charged and has denied any specific wrongdoing. But in his resignation letter he admitted he has “made my share of mistakes.”
“None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right,” he wrote.
Mr. Jackson was first elected to the House in a special election in 1995 and easily has won re-election ever since. He was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party until the Blagojevich allegations surfaced.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who said she spoke with Mr. Jackson and his father Wednesday afternoon, praised the congressman for his service and “his eloquent advocacy for his constituents’ views and interests.”
“As he works to address his health, our thoughts and prayers are with him, his wife, Sandi, his children as well as his parents,” said Mrs. Pelosi in a prepared statement. “We are grateful to him and his family for their long-standing record of public service to our country.”