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Jackson-Beavers Feud Roils Cook County

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is seeking the go-ahead from the Federal Election Commission to help write the final chapter in a high-profile family feud that has roiled Democratic politics in Chicago for years: the Jacksons vs. the Beaverses.

The Illinois Democrat wants the FEC to determine whether he can provide financial backing from his reelection committee to the campaign of his wife, Sandi, for 7th Ward committeeman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

The post is currently held by William Beavers, whose daughter, Darcel, was crushed by Sandi Jackson last February in the race for 7th Ward alderman.

Fifty aldermen make up the Chicago City Council, and one of the Beaverses — either father or daughter — has held the 7th Ward seat since 1983.

William Beavers is a close ally of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Darcel Beavers was named alderman last December by Daley after her father engineered his own appointment to the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

If Sandi Jackson were to defeat William Beavers in the Feb. 5 Democratic Party election, ousting him as a key player in the Democratic Party in Chicago, his role would essentially end as a political power broker, completing the anointment of the Jacksons as another formidable force in Windy City politics.  

“My wife ... is running against objectively the most powerful African-American in Cook County politics for 30 years,” Jackson said of William Beavers. “Her knocking him off, for me, politically is a big deal.”

The congressman, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, has nearly $828,000 in his reelection campaign coffers, and he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to help his wife beat Beavers.

Jackson wants the FEC to clarify whether he can spend the hard-money dollars, raised under federal campaign limits, on an internal party race in Cook County.

Cook County allows unlimited campaign contributions to candidates, and union and corporate money is legal.

Under federal law, donations are limited to $2,300 per person per election (primary and general), and union and corporate donations are illegal.

“I am asking the FEC, ‘What are the standards for contributions from a federal campaign committee to a party campaign?’” said Jackson.

“The ward seat determines who judges are, they determine a slate of judicial candidates, who gets official party blessing for a whole bunch of other positions. But you have to have that ward committeeman slot.”

The FEC informed Jackson, who had sought its guidance, in a letter on Monday that it would issue him an opinion by the end of December.

“As her husband, closest ally and biggest supporter, I of course want to do everything in my power and within the law to support her election,” Jackson wrote in an Oct. 15 letter to the FEC.

“Therefore, may I contribute to my wife’s campaign for 7th Ward committeeman? If so, how much may I contribute?”

The seven-term lawmaker said he would be willing to give $100,000 or more to his wife’s party campaign if that’s what it would take to win.

And that comes on top of the $200,000-plus that he spent from his campaign helping her win the alderman’s race.

“If they say I can contribute $100, great. If they say I can contribute $100,000, great,” Jackson said. “I may not have to contribute $100,000, but I may choose to.”

Another technical issue for the FEC to evaluate involves the fact that Sandi Jackson’s race for this Democratic Party post occurs within the boundaries of her husband’s congressional district.

The FEC will have to determine whether any funds she spends, especially with money raised outside federal campaign rules, could benefit the congressman during his own federal primary, which takes place on Feb. 5, as well.

“Another thing I need an [FEC] opinion on is: What are the limits ofa mutually coordinated effort?” Jackson said. “She can spend corporate money; I can’t. She can spend union money; I can’t. ... I need answers.”

The bad blood between the Jacksons and the Beaverses goes back to the beginning of Jackson’s congressional career in 1995, when he defeated state Sen. Emil Jones Jr., a close Beavers ally, in a special election to replace former Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.), who was later imprisoned on sex and fraud charges.

Jackson said that in 2002, the Beaverses and the Shaw brothers, William and Robert, bigwigs in local Democratic politics, convinced a retired truck driver named Jesse L. Jackson to run against him.

Getting the other Jackson off the ballot cost “several hundred thousand dollars” — though, in the end, the congressman was easily reelected to the House with more than 80 percent of the vote.

Jackson-backed candidates later toppled the Shaws, who remain his bitter rivals, and now Jackson wants to complete the same mission against the Beaverses.

William Beavers earlier this year called himself “the hog with the big nuts,” and he publicly predicted victory in the showdown with the Jacksons, only to see his daughter get crushed by nearly 25 points in the alderman’s race.

Darcel Beavers was the longtime chief of staff to her father before being appointed to the city council to replace him.

“He can run Mickey Mouse. He might as well bring Donald Duck down,” Beavers said of Jesse Jackson Jr., before Sandi Jackson got into the race against his daughter. “It don’t matter. The name ‘Beavers’ means more than ‘Jackson.’”

For his part, Jackson told the Chicago Tribune in July 2006 that Beavers was “a dinosaur,” declaring: “His insider political deals are reminiscent of the Jurassic period.”

But knocking Beavers out of his Democratic Party post could be the final chapter of this long-running fight.

“The lingering elements of the ward is the committeeman slot that [William Beavers] holds,” Jackson said.

“So every judge in her jurisdiction has to get permission from him, not [Darcel Beavers] — even though she’s the alderman and she has the clout — to run.”

The Cook County Democratic committeemen can also appoint people to offices such as state senator or representative to complete unexpired terms of office.

Jackson, who once flirted with running against Daley, now says his wife may run for mayor sometime down the road.

“I’d rather she run,” he said.