WASHINGTON – Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Everyone knows this famous cliché.
Except for the folks at the Reports Analysis Division of the Federal Elections Commission. They’ve been trying since the end of 2012 to contact the treasurer of the Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress campaign committee.
Monday marked the 14th time the FEC sent a letter to a nonexistent campaign treasurer, addressing it to Chicago Post Office Box 490286. That’s a P.O. box the former treasurer told the FEC years ago she knows nothing about.
At issue: After former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., pleaded guilty to looting his campaign chest of $750,000, his campaign committee stopped filing the required quarterly reports. The last report, covering the period Jan. 1, 2011, through Nov. 26, 2012, showed $105,703 cash on hand.
Chicago attorney Vickie Pasley resigned as the Jackson for Congress treasurer on Aug. 29, 2013, and Jackson, on his way to prison, never filled the position.
Pasley said in an Aug. 29, 2013, letter to then-FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub: “I have no knowledge where P.O. Box 490286 is located, nor do I have access to that post office box.”
Yet each quarter the FEC churns out a letter with toothless threats to the nonexistent treasurer at a non-responsive P.O box to “immediately” file a report on receipts and disbursements.
That’s one letter in 2012; four each in the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 and one so far in 2016.
“It’s getting ridiculous that the FEC has sent 14 consecutive unanswered quarterly Failure to File notices to a Chicago PO Box that it’s clear no one is checking,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Sun-Times.
“At some point they’re going to have to stop wasting postage and open an investigation if they want answers — which they should,” he said.
In June 2013, just before Jackson Jr. was sentenced, federal prosecutors and lawyers for Jackson wrestled in court about what to do with the cash left in his congressional campaign fund.
As I wrote back then: “Prosecutors argue that Jackson Jr. could have directed his campaign ‘to donate the money to a nonprofit that addressed minority health disparities; provided aid for impoverished and war-torn nations; supported civil rights; provided safe drinking waters to communities that lacked it; invested in Chicago’s South Side or assisted those who faced foreclosure.’
“The government has asked the judge to appoint a monitor to close down Jackson Jr.’s campaign fund. Its treasurer has stopped filing required reports and is not responding to Federal Election Commission letters demanding action.”
The judge never made any rulings related to closing down the campaign fund — Jackson did nothing — and now almost three years later, the FEC is still fumbling around.
Jackson entered federal prison on Oct. 29, 2013. He’s been out since last September and the fact that he is living in Washington has been reported, as has his address.
Wife Sandi, the former 8th Ward Chicago alderman, started her one-year prison sentence last October for her part in the schemes. Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit false statements, and mail and wire fraud. Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to filing a false federal income tax return.
FEC Press Officer Judith Ingram told me the FEC dispatches those letters about missing reports to give campaign committees “an opportunity to clarify for the public record” campaign fundraising and spending. Asked about the 14 letters to a Jackson treasurer who does not exist, she declined to comment.
Here’s a suggestion to the staffers at the Reports Analysis Division: Hop on a Red Line subway train at Metro Center, near FEC headquarters. Get off at DuPont Circle. Jackson’s house is on O Street, a short stroll from the subway stop. Drop off a letter there.