Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. again defends himself in Rod Blagojevich scandal

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) went on national TV Friday in response to a Tribune report that Jackson allies discussed raising $1 million for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to promote the congressman's appointment to the U.S. Senate.

"I'm fighting now for my character and I'm also fighting for my life," Jackson told CNN, citing a lingering "cloud" over his bid to replace President-elect Barack Obama. "When the process is over, I profoundly hope that the people will give me my name back."

Jackson repeated his defense that he had no knowledge of any efforts to help buy a promotion to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Federal authorities accused the governor Tuesday of attempting to auction off the appointment, which under state law only he can make.

Jackson originally had been scheduled to meet with federal investigators Friday, but that meeting was postponed, according to his aides.

Jackson did not return calls from the Tribune on Friday. A spokesman asked the Tribune to present its questions in writing.

His wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), said Friday evening he was too tired from a full day of talking to reporters.

"He's out like a light," she said in a text message.

The Tribune reported that some Indian-American businessmen discussed donating to the governor to aid Jackson's Senate bid as early as Oct. 31 at a private luncheon gathering in Schaumburg. The event, attended by the governor, was held the same day Blagojevich was secretly recorded saying an emissary from Jackson could come up with $1 million in campaign donations if he would let Jackson succeed Obama.

Authorities referred to the Senate hopeful only as "Senate Candidate 5," but the Tribune has identified that individual as Jackson.

The businessmen held a fundraiser for Blagojevich on Dec. 6 in Elmhurst, where the governor and the congressman's brother Jonathan appeared. A sponsor of the event was Raghuveer Nayak, a major fundraiser for Blagojevich with close ties to the Jackson family.

Nayak, 54, is the owner of several outpatient surgery clinics, has business ties to Jonathan Jackson and has long been friendly with the congressman's father, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

In an interview with ABC, the congressman described Nayak as "a decent man. I like him very much."

He also told ABC his brother and his father supported his Senate bid yet "would have never crossed any lines. They are men of integrity—both very spiritual men."

On Friday, Nayak's longtime lawyer defended his client's character.

"He is a guy that if he was asked to raise money by a candidate he believed in he would always do it," lawyer Joel Brodsky said. But his client would never "do anything that smelled illegal to him, he would go nowhere near it. Absolutely not."

Nayak is a strong supporter of Rev. Jackson's Operation PUSH and has taken frequent trips to India with him, Brodsky said.

Tribune reporter John Chase contributed to this report.