SOUTH SHORE—‘Selfish,’ ‘greedy’ and ‘foolish’ were just three of the words Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former constituents hurled at the disgraced congressman Friday, as federal prosecutors charged him with misusing $750,000 in campaign funds.
His wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, was also charged Friday with tax fraud. Her lawyer said she plans to plead guilty.
"It's about time they got caught,” said Robert, 46, who has lived in South Shore for more than 30 years and declined to give his last name. “Obviously they weren't spending none of that money in the neighborhood or on the office."
Federal prosecutors allege Jackson Jr. spent thousands of dollars on everything from children's furniture to Michael Jackson's fedora. Jackson Jr. used campaign funds to purchase expensive fur coats and capes, and memorabilia associated with Jimi Hendrix, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson, including a "Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar," charging documents said. He also allegedly bought a $5,000 football signed by Amerian presidents and a $43,000 Rolex watch.
Prosecutors say he also used campaign funds to pay his credit card bill.
Several South Shore residents claimed the congressman routinely ignored the district, which spans includes parts of the south suburbs, while in office.
Others didn’t understand why Jackson would need to pilfer campaign money.
"I just think he shouldn't use his constituents' money like that because he's got a lot of money of his own,” said Toya Lowrey, 50, of the South Shore. “It's greedy."
The Center for Responsive Politics estimated Jackson Jr.'s net worth at $300,008 in 2011.
Gregory Clark, 56, a lifelong South Shore resident, echoed Lowrey's sentiment.
“The love of money gets people caught up,” he said. “Their salaries were enough money to take care of their families.”
Jackson Jr. earned $237,672 last year. As an alderman, his wife earned $115,000 last year.
Residents in the heavily black district were particularly disappointed.
"I think it's awful that we can't trust our black leaders,” Marie Golar, 74, said before calling Jackson “sheisty.”
“I never liked any of the Jacksons no way,” Clark said. “I never felt like they were fair to our people, the African-American community. It seems like they’re just in it for themselves. It was always about Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson. It was never about the people.”
Longtime constituents said they wished Jackson had done more for the 2nd District.
"I feel bad for the community because there's so many people around here you could help with that kind of money,” said one 50-year-old woman who declined to be named.
"It's a foolish waste of resources,” Jay Hamilton, 28, said.
Robert, said he no longer trusts Illinois politicians. When asked why, he quipped: “We don’t have that much time.”