is a columnist for
the Chicago Tribune
With so much news on the impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, I almost missed an incredible aspect of this amazing case:
The Jesse Junior G-Man Task Force to Fight Political Corruption thing.
So I called the federal building in Chicago and asked for the Jesse Junior G-Man Task Force.
"Pardon me?" asked a female federal employee.
Don't be obtuse. It's been all over the national TV news, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D., Bud Light) working with the feds to fight corruption. So connect me to the Jesse Junior G-Man headquarters.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said.
It might not be a formal "task force." Perhaps there's another name for it, like Jesse Junior G-Man Blago Working Group. I'm a reporter. You can tell me.
"Sorry," she said. "No Junior G-Man office here."
Oh, c'mon! Just stop with your little bureaucratic games. The story was on TV. Jackson's been working with the feds, which means he's a good guy.
But she had nothing for me, so I called someone else.
"Jesse Junior G-Man? No," a guy said. "Not on this floor."
Just tell me. The Junior G-Man works in a high-tech complex buried deep underground, right? Behind a series of cool interlocking steel doors, protecting the Cone of Silence, right?
"No," the guy said. "This is the second call you've made on this subject. We're tracking you. Now stop. I mean it."
Jeez. Could TV news be wrong? Could it have just been media puffery and political spin that got out of control?
The Junior G-Man thing began after the governor was charged with trying to sell the Senate seat formerly held by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder, including emissaries of an unidentified Candidate 5, who later was identified as Jackson.
The Chicago Tribune then reported that a group of Indian businessmen held a fund-raiser for Blagojevich - with Jackson's brother Jonathan in attendance - and quoted several businessmen as saying that they raised the money hoping Blagojevich would make Jackson the next senator.
"I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, plead my case or propose a deal about a U.S. Senate seat, period," Jackson said.
Jackson was in a bind. He wasn't being accused of a crime, but people who wanted him in the Senate were willing to pony up, and things were getting sticky. You could imagine the Jackson brain trust pacing the floor in fear, stroking their chins, muttering, "What to do? What to do?"
So last week, unnamed "sources" told Chicago WLS-TV that Jackson wasn't only Candidate 5, but that he was actually feeding information to the feds about Blagojevich. Wow, that's so cool.
"Sources tell [WLS] that Jackson has been in regular contact with the feds and has told the government that in 2003, Blagojevich denied the congressman's wife, Sandi, an appointment as Illinois lottery director because Jackson would not donate $25,000 to the governor's campaign fund," reporter Charles Thomas said.
But if Blagojevich was truly shaking down Jackson, why would Jackson later actively seek Blagojevich's support for the Senate? Didn't those "sources" know that Blagojevich believed the Senate seat was, like, bleeping golden?
Thomas' report made all of broadcast news seethe with jealousy. The others just had to have one. So the next night,
NBC Nightly News
went national with a "bombshell" of a story.
"Now we shift focus to Illinois, a new bombshell in the scandal surrounding the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich," anchor Brian Williams said. "Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. now says he has been an informant, talking to federal authorities about the governor [dramatic pause] for years!"
And lo, Jackson was transformed, from Candidate 5 to Candidate Snitch.
My sources tell me that he'd been spotted hanging out on Rush Street while lobbying for the Senate job. Clearly, he was undercover.
"Maybe he's like the Big Pussy character in
, when Big Pussy wired up on Tony and started to think he was a G-man, too," said Wings, my able assistant.
Yes, Wings, I remember. It was so touching, especially the episode when Big Pussy tried to make an arrest as a federal agent. All he was missing was a decoder ring.
And, at that exact moment, I wished I were a TV reporter, so I could interview the guy who played Big Pussy on HBO and ask him about how federal investigations work and about Illinois political corruption.
Unfortunately, Wings ruined everything by reading me a statement from Jackson spokesman Kenneth Edmonds, who said Jackson passed knowledge of "perceived corruption" to the feds but insisted Jackson was no "informant."
And I believe it. Jackson's no informant, he's a Junior G-Man. Now if I can only get his secret number, we can sit in the Cone of Silence and talk.