Monday, August 17, 2009

Allegations pose first campaign test for Cheryle Jackson

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, this senate race coming up next year isn't important. Perhaps this Senate seat for which Ms. Jackson is seeking election may not be a competitive seat, especially since I think Republicans may have a pick-up here. This Senate seat may not have much effect on the balance of power in the US Senate between Republicans and Democrats.

This senate seat however is an important one for racial history. In perhaps the last 40 years four blacks have taken their seats in the US Senate. Three have been elected with one appointed. Also three black US Senators have come from Illinois. Two have been elected and one was appointed, and we won't discuss the one who was appointed I've talked about him enough.

Today we'll talk about the new candidate for US Senate on the Democratic side, she used to be apart of Ousted governor's administration. And that was before she become President of the Chicago Urban League. Today it appears that she had a role in the bungled attempt to offer state funds to a church that was ravaged by fire a few years back.
Are the fingerprints of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheryle Jackson on one of the state's biggest political fiascos under now-indicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich?

Jackson -- the Chicago Urban League chief who was Blagojevich's deputy chief of staff for communications until late 2006 -- emphatically says no.

But a series of previously undisclosed e-mails between Blagojevich staffers call that assertion into question. The e-mails were flying as the then-governor's staff scrambled to fulfill his promise to give $1million in state aid to Pilgrim Baptist Church, a Bronzeville landmark destroyed by fire.

Blagojevich's promise, made with TV cameras rolling in January 2006 as he was seeking re-election, blew up in his face last year when the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that the money intended for the church went instead to a clout-heavy private school, the Loop Lab School, that had rented space from the church in a building next to its sanctuary at 3300 S. Indiana.
Well the mix-up over where this money was supposed to go came to a head last year. Just before Ousted governor was arrested, impeached and then removed from office. Of course Ms. Jackson denies her role in that affair, in fact she is sure to let people know that she left the Blagojevich administration the year that he was re-elected. Also she makes sure to note that Blago didn't stand for what she believed he stood for and that prompted her departure. Let's continue:
Loop Lab School -- run by a pardoned ex-felon named Chandra Gill -- was leasing space from Pilgrim Baptist Church at the time of the fire. The school used the $1 million from Blagojevich's administration to move out of Bronzeville and buy a downtown office condo that was supposed to become the school's new home.

Blagojevich's response to the news that the school got the $1 million meant for the church was to claim he was blindsided by the disclosure. He blamed everything on a bureaucratic mix-up by two former staffers and offered what he called a "win-win" solution, deciding to let the school keep the money and promising to direct another $1 million to the church.

But the church still hasn't gotten that state money. And the Loop Lab School never reopened in the office condo downtown.

The state is taking steps to try to get back the grant money from the school. Also, the auditor general found that Blagojevich's administration broke state rules on how grants are awarded.

In another e-mail written the same day the Sun-Times story broke, [Blago deputy Chief or Staff Kristin] Richards said Jackson was the one who directed, early on, that Loop Lab School get the state money instead of the church. The decision to route money to the school came after the American Civil Liberties Union questioned the legality of giving state funds to a church.
So, this is turning into a huge mess. It may not derail Cheryle Jackson's chance. John Ruberry seems to believe a worse dilemna may be Alexi Giannoulias offering loans to organized crime figures.

While there may be the opportunity to elect another black to the US Senate, with the wounds some of the candidates have on the Democratic side I can see why Mark Kirk and the Republicans may believe that this Senate seat may be another pick up. This one might be made easy in spite of Illinois' blue tint.

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