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Our View: Hall of Shame

Updated: March 22, 2013 10:30AM

From the happenings in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, it looks as if former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, former Chicago alderwoman Sandi Jackson, are the latest inductees into the Illinois Political Hall of Shame. With two more in the door, it looks like we’re going to need a new wing on that building.

If it wasn’t before, it has become painfully clear to why the Chicago Democrat sank into a deep depression last summer — causing him to take an extended leave of absence from Congress, not campaign for re-election and resign his House seat Nov. 21. And why his wife resigned her aldermanic post last month.

They knew that their promising political careers were in deep trouble. They acknowledged that with guilty pleas which could fetch them time in federal prison and hefty fines.

How especially stunning and depressing for Jackson Jr., who envisioned himself one day as mayor of Chicago or a U.S. senator, maybe even a presidential candidate. Remember, his name surfaced as wanting to bid on the seat of then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama after he was elected president.

The felony charges filed against the couple turned out to be more serious than we and many others expected — involving a scheme to misuse $750,000 in campaign money for personal expenses and to evade paying their proper share of income tax from 2006 to 2011.

Jackson Jr., 47, accepted responsibility for his “mistakes” when he resigned his House seat. Sandi Jackson, 49, may avoid incarceration or get a lighter sentence to avoid their two children being without parents for a lengthy time.

It’s a sad outcome for the couple, who were akin to political rock stars in the Land of Lincoln. Because it appears to involve hubris, some may be tempted to compare it to a Shakespearean tragedy. It is not. A tragedy is what happened in December at a grade school in Connecticut.

The Jacksons were greedy and foolish, another distressing example of the corruption and cynicism seemingly inherent in Illinois’ political class. Too many members of that class also have a sense of entitlement that has contributed to their downfall.

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