Despite having spent several years in prison for looting his campaign fund of hundreds of thousands of dollars, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is still collecting big benefit payments from the federal government. The 51-year-old scion of famed politico Jesse Jackson Sr. received approximately $138,400 a year. That amount surpasses what he received as compensation as a freshman Democrat in the House of Representatives in 1995.
According to attorney Barry Schatz, who is representing Jackson in a divorce, approximately $100,000 of what he receives is tax-free because it is a workers' compensation payment. Some of the remainder, which include Social Security Disability Insurance payouts, may be taxable.
Jackson receives disability payments because of a diagnosis of depression and bipolar disorder. These conditions led him to an extended leave from Congress in 2012. Attorney Schatz said that the mental conditions have been exacerbated by the ongoing divorce from his wife, Sandi Jackson. He has been ordered to pay child support.
After Sandi Jackson filed for divorce in Washington DC, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert Okun's order required Jesse Jackson to pay temporary child support for the couple's two teenaged children. The order revealed the ex-lawmaker's annual benefits payments of $138,400.
Schatz said that the workers' compensation benefits Jackson receives are for a temporary, total disability. If his condition improves, the benefits might also change. The attorney said that Jackson is not lazy but is "not currently able to work."
Jackson represented a portion of Chicago, spending 17 years in Congress. While under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he resigned and later plead guilty in 2013 to using $750,000 in campaign funds for travel, celebrity memorabilia, and other goods. When he resigned, Jackson’s salary had reached $174,000 a year.
Before his resignation, Jackson took a leave of absence to receive treatment for depression and bipolar disorder. However, while he gave his date of injury as June 1, 2012, he did not miss casting dozens of roll-call votes in the House of Representatives from June 1 to 8, 2012, not missing a single vote, House records show. Despite his absence and failure to campaign, Chicago voters returned him to Congress. In a robocall, he told fellow citizens, "Like many human beings, a series of events came together in my life at the same time, and they've been difficult to sort through," he said in the call. "I am human. I'm doing my best. And I'm trying to sort through them all."
Jackson spent 22 months of a 30 month sentence, while his wife spent a year for her role in the fracas. Released from prison last year, she is now without income but has significant debt.
The current salary of rank and file members of Congress is $174,000 per year. The Speaker of the House receives $223,500 in annual compensation. The Majority Leader receives $193,400 in annual compensation, as does the Minority Leader.