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Wife of former Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. quits Chicago council

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Sandi Jackson, the wife of former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., resigned her seat on the Chicago city council on Friday, citing "very painful family health issues," after criticism over her frequent absences from council meetings.

Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been treated for bipolar disorder and according to media reports is under investigation for possible misuse of campaign funds, resigned his seat last November for what he described as health reasons.

In her letter of resignation, Sandi Jackson said she decided that her constituents and colleagues "deserve a partner who can commit all of their energies to the business of the people."

She has been splitting her time between Washington, D.C., where the family has a residence, and her Chicago home, according to reports. She has faced criticism from some constituents about her absences from council business, according to local media reports.

"As Sandi takes this time to focus on her family, we give her our deepest thanks and support for her service to our city and the residents of her ward," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

Emanuel will pick a replacement for Jackson to serve in her place until the February 2015 elections, according to Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen.

Jesse Jackson Jr., the 47-year-old son of civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson, had been in Congress since 1995 before resigning last November.

Paul Green, a political science professor at Chicago's Roosevelt University, said the political pressure on Sandi Jackson was likely enormous.

"It's not easy being an alderman, especially when you have the problem with your husband," Green said. "The long knives have been sharpened for her. This had to be a tremendous mental pressure on her and that should relieve her of some of that."

Sandi Jackson was elected to her alderman seat on Chicago's South Side in February 2007.

BIPOLAR DISORDER

Jesse Jackson Jr. was treated for at least six weeks last summer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for bipolar disorder, a psychological condition marked by extreme mood swings, and had been on medical leave for about six months before his resignation last November.

He has also been the subject of a House ethics committee probe over an alleged bribe offered by a Jackson supporter in 2008 to then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The bribe was said to be intended to entice Blagojevich to appoint Jackson to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Jackson has admitted to lobbying for the seat, but denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who has since been convicted on corruption charges and imprisoned.

According to news reports citing unnamed sources, Jesse Jackson Jr. was also being investigated by the FBI over possible misuse of campaign money. A Wall Street Journal report said the investigation had expanded to include Sandi Jackson.

A spokesman for federal prosecutors had no comment on Friday.

The FBI has not confirmed the reports. In his resignation letter last November, Jesse Jackson Jr. acknowledged a probe was under way and said he was cooperating with investigators and accepted responsibility for "my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone."

Between 2001 and 2012, Sandi Jackson's consulting firm, J. Donatella & Associates, received about $472,000 from her husband's campaign. The biggest payments came in the 2011-12 campaign finance cycle, at $120,000 as of October 31, and the 2009-10 cycle, at $116,000, according to the website OpenSecrets.org, which compiles campaign financial data.

The Federal Election Commission has declared the practice of lawmakers employing relatives as legal for campaign committees. Sandi Jackson's campaign, Friends of Sandi Jackson, received $242,012 from her husband's campaign, according to OpenSecrets.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Matthew Lewis)

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