Jesse Jackson Jnr quits Congress

Lawmaker cites bipolar disorder and 'mistakes' over campaign money as reasons he left office

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 2:56am

Jesse Jackson Jnr, citing his mental health, has resigned from the US House of Representatives, effectively ending the once-promising political career of the civil rights icon's son and namesake.

Jackson had previously gone on a mysterious period of extended medical leave, while facing separate federal investigations.

Just two weeks after voters re-elected him to a ninth full term in office, Jackson sent his resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, citing treatment for bipolar disorder and admitting "my share of mistakes".

The House Ethics Committee is investigating his dealings with imprisoned former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich.

For the first time Jackson publicly acknowledged reports of a new federal probe believed to be looking into his possible misuse of campaign money.

"I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, co-operate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes," he wrote.

Jackson, 47, a Democrat, disappeared in June, and it was later revealed that he was being treated at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues.

He returned to his Washington home in September, but went back to the clinic the next month, with his father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, saying his son had not yet "regained his balance".

On Wednesday night, the elder Jackson said his son resigned because he did not believe he could continue with his political career and try to regain his health at the same time. "He made the decision to choose his health," said Jackson. The elder Jackson said his son had wanted to hold a news conference to discuss his decision to step down, but did not believe he could do so without "breaking down".

He also said there was no way of knowing how long it would take for his son to recover from what he characterised as an "internal unresolved challenge".

"It's not the kind of illness you can put a timetable on," Jackson said, adding that he is confident that his son "will get well in time".

Jackson Jnr first took office in 1995 after winning a special election in a largely urban and Democratic district and began his career in Washington with a star power and pedigree that set him apart from hundreds of other House colleagues.

But despite high expectations, he largely went unnoticed as a policymaker. Instead, he gained a reputation for quixotic pursuits such as trying to impeach President George W. Bush and push through constitutional amendments that had no chance.

Shortly after taking office, he was deemed People magazine's "sexiest politician" in 1997 and became one of the most outspoken and most quoted liberals in the House.

Jackson also served as national co-chair of US President Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008.