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Congressman Jackson, Rahm Emanuel Testify as Blagojevich Defense Witnesses

U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared as defense witnesses for Rod Blagojevich, the ex-Illinois governor being tried on corruption charges.

Jackson, an Illinois Democrat, and Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman and White House chief of staff, took the stand today in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where Blagojevich has been on trial since May 2.

Blagojevich, 54, whose first trial ended last August with the jury deadlocked on 23 of 24 criminal counts, is accused of crimes include trying to trade official acts for campaign money. One favor allegedly for sale was the appointment of a replacement to fill the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected president in 2008.

Jackson testified that he never raised money for any political candidate except himself. The congressman was a Senate hopeful “whose associate Blagojevich understood to have offered $1.5 million” for the governor’s re-election in return an appointment to the vacancy, according to Blagojevich’s indictment.

Jackson denied any wrongdoing and said he wasn’t a target in the federal investigation. A House ethics committee review of the matter was put on hold pending the Blagojevich retrial.

Jackson said that Blagojevich when running for governor asked for a $25,000 contribution and Jackson said no.

Job for Wife

The congressman also told Blagojevich his wife was interested in a position in the governor’s administration, which she didn’t get, he testified.

When the men saw each other later, Jackson said, the governor noted that the job request didn’t pan out.

“In classic Elvis fashion, he snapped his fingers and said, ‘You should have given me that $25,000,’” Jackson said.

Emanuel, testifying for less than five minutes, said Blagojevich never asked for help in getting a job in return for appointing Valerie Jarrett, an Obama campaign adviser, to the Senate seat.

Blagojevich at the first trial was convicted of lying to federal agents and is being retried on 20 of the deadlocked charges. Three were dropped.

The former governor faced debts and a shortage of campaign money before his arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner told jurors in his opening statement.

Senate Seat

“He decided to sell the Senate seat to solve his problem,” the prosecutor said.

Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008 after the presidential election and before Obama took office.

The ex-governor faces 10 counts of wire fraud, plus charges of attempted extortion and extortion conspiracy. A conviction might result in a 20-year prison sentence. He is also accused of bribery.

Lying to investigators, for which Blagojevich hasn’t been sentenced, is punishable by as much as five years in prison.

Democrat Roland Burris received the Senate appointment and served until a special election in November.

The case is U.S. v. Blagojevich, 08-cr-00888, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Mario Parker in Chicago at mparker22@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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