Why would a couple risk so much — respect and even their freedom — for furs, furniture and a fedora?

This was the question that came to my mind when I read the federal charges against Jesse L. Jackson Jr., the former congressman from Illinois. He’s charged with conspiracy, making false statements and mail and wire fraud. In all, he’s accused of misusing about $750,000 in private campaign funds. Jackson’s wife, Sandra Stevens Jackson, who resigned her seat on the Chicago City Council, reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud.

Part of what I do is help people understand the often-complicated issues we have to deal with when it comes to our money. But I also like to explore the mess people get themselves into when they don’t have the money to buy the things they want. Most often they get into mind-boggling debt. If Jackson takes a plea deal as has been reported, he will have lost so much, and for what?


You have to shake your head when you read a list of the things he bought. According to a property list detailed in a court document, he spent:

●$5,000 on fur capes and parkas.

●$9,588 for children’s furniture.

●$26,700 for Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a $4,600 fedora.

●$10,105 for Bruce Lee memorabilia.

●$11,130 for Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia.

●$2,200 for Malcolm X memorabilia.

●$2,775 for Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.

●$43,350 for a gold-plated Rolex watch.

●$5,000 for a football signed by American presidents.