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Chicago Tribune, Published June 25 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr. takes medical leave from Congress, cites exhaustion

CHICAGO — U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s office disclosed Monday that the veteran Democratic congressman has been on medical leave from Congress for the past two weeks and is being treated for exhaustion.

In a statement from his office, spokesman Frank Watkins said the 17-year congressman went on medical leave June 10. “He asks that you respect his family’s privacy,” the statement said, adding that his congressional offices remain open for constituents.

The statement was the first public disclosure that Jackson has been on medical leave for two weeks. Since June 10, his office has issued at least 10 news releases including one two days after he took medical leave in which he was quoted commending Crete, Ill., officials for withdrawing support for an immigration detention center.

In Washington, Watkins said he knew where the congressman was being treated, but would not say because the family had asked him not to make that public. He declined to say if Jackson was being treated in Illinois.

“At the request of the family, we’re not saying where he is and literally everything I know beyond that is in the release,” he said.

According to Watkins, Jackson did not have to formally ask permission from House officials to take a leave. He did not say how long he expected Jackson to be away from Congress.

Just last week, a longtime friend of Jackson’s, Raghuveer Nayak, was arrested on federal fraud charges involving Nayak’s surgical centers. Nayak was at the center of the U.S. Senate seat scandal that sent former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison.

Jackson remains under a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that Nayak offered Blagojevich up to $6 million in campaign cash to make the congressman President Barack Obama’s successor in the U.S. Senate.

Nayak had told federal investigators that Jackson asked him to raise campaign money for Blagojevich in hopes the then-governor would appoint Jackson to the seat, sources familiar with the investigation have told the Chicago Tribune.

Jackson has denied any knowledge of fundraising in exchange for the appointment and has said he expects to be vindicated by the ethics panel.

Jackson, who has distanced himself from Nayak, also has said he did not violate House ethics rules when he had Nayak buy a plane ticket for a woman with whom he had a secret relationship.

Despite the controversies, Jackson in March handily won a Democratic primary challenge from former one-term Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete.