One of the things I enjoy—not exactly the right word—about the fine print of corruption cases is the little, humanizing details. Among the charges that Jesse Jackson Jr. pled guilty to today are accountings of purchases he made with campaign funds, most of which are about what you’d expect from the misuse of campaign funds—home renovations, car repair, airfare, home electronics. The eternal cliche of the Rolex watch. Oh, and lots of Costco trips. The sort of generic luxuries I would buy if I had illicit access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds and not much political need to use them for campaigning.
It’s the little stuff, instead, that’s the most resonant.
The charges specify $243.62 in Build-a-Bear expenses, or the equivalent of about ten bears at going Build-a-Bear prices.
But Jesse Jr. was out for bigger (stuffed) game:
No, really: “From in or about March 2011 through in or about April 2011, Person A received funds and used those funds to purchase the elk heads on the Defendant’s behalf.” Then, in eight sections, the charges detail the movements of the elk heads, and the checks that paid for the elk heads, throughout the country, and what appears to be an interior-decoration sting, to untangle the vast elk-head conspiracy:
Sometimes the substance of these scandals is Shakespearean: power, family, lies, and sex. And there’s an aspect of that to Jesse Jr.’s fall. But it’s the little points, pitched between pathos and schadenfreude, that get me—something as simple and base as $8,000 worth of elk heads.
Photograph: dailyinvention (CC by 2.0)
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