There's no way America can fully understand the odd expenditures of guilty former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. — like those $7,058 stuffed elk heads — without reading a special book.
It's called "It's About the Money!" by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and Jesse L. Jackson Jr., billed as a guide in "How to Build Wealth, Get Access to Capital, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams."
The message? Don't live beyond your means. Don't waste your money on fancy baubles. Be prudent. Pay your own way.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- VIDEO: Video: Kass presents 'It's About the Money!' by Jesse Jackson Jr.
- STORY: Jacksons' guilt a tale of excess
- PHOTOS: Photos: Jackson Jr. assets the government wants
United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 333 Constitution Avenue Northwest #4400, Washington, DC 20001, USA
"Living above your means is financial sin," the Jacksons say in their book. Of course, if voters give you campaign money and you spend it hand over fist, it might also mean prison.
It's a rare book from 1999, but I have a copy and I'm looking at the cover as I write. It shows the Jacksons in happier days — long before Junior pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to a conspiracy count for looting his campaign chest of about $750,000 on crazy junk, personal stuff and weird memorabilia.
Included in his purchases were those bizarre elk heads, $17,000 spent at tobacco stores (he smokes cigars), almost $61,000 for restaurants, nightclubs and lounges, thousands for electronic toys.
But in "It's About the Money!" the Jacksons urge a primarily African-American readership to maintain financial responsibility. Because they "have felt denied for so long where material goods are concerned, they're particularly inclined to spend money on 'flash' — flashy clothes, expensive cars, fancy jewelry."
Clearly, Junior didn't read his own words.
Much of the book is full of good old common sense. Sadly, there is no mention of Junior's appetite for a $43,000 Rolex, the mink capes, the Michael Jackson memorabilia, wife Sandi's shopping sprees and on and on.
Also missing from the book is an explanation as to why the heck the two stuffed elk heads would be hung upon the wall as if the Jacksons were the Duke and Duchess of York.
"The elk heads bother me," said my colleague Old School. "What black people buy elk heads as a symbol of stature?"
"I know a lot of black people," said Old School, who has been African-American his entire life. "And not one person I know puts elk heads on the wall."
Our favorite chapter is the first, titled "Making Your Money Work for You Through Consistent Budgeting and Saving." It contains this fine line:
"Don't spend money just for pleasure; use it to build wealth and, in so doing, acquire power to manage and control your life."
"Rich people tend to have certain habits that poor people would do well to emulate. For example, rich people understand that you shouldn't fritter away your money on such baubles as cars and clothes, which quickly depreciate in value."
Junior and his free-spending wife, the former 7th Ward alderman who pleaded guilty Wednesday on a tax charge, clearly ignored the lessons in the book.
And when the FBI got close last year, Junior developed emotional problems. He'd already been caught with a bikini model, and he was dangerously close to that Blagojevich fiasco about buying the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.
So having the feds crawling up your legs searching for the clue to stuffed elk head purchases and Best Buy spending sprees may cause emotional problems in certain politicians.
But is that an excuse? No, especially since the Jacksons — master media magicians — selectively leaked out reports of his mental illness in an orchestrated media plea for sympathy.