CHICAGO — A showy red cape drew more bids than framed autographs of Michael Jackson or Bruce Lee as a government auction of more than a dozen items forfeited by prison-bound former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. got underway Tuesday.
The online auction, which will accept bids over two weeks, is the U.S. Marshals Service way of trying to recoup part of the $750,000 in campaign funds the Chicago Democrat and his wife, Sandra, illegally spent — often to satisfy penchants for attention-grabbing clothes and pop-culture keepsakes.
Three hours after the auction began, the red cashmere cape with fur trim had already drawn 34 bids, tripling the initial asking price to $905; court documents say Jackson purchased it for $1,500 from an Edwards Lowell Furs store. A Bruce Lee autograph had just four bids, the highest of which was $350.
Calculating existing bids for all 13 items as of Wednesday, the feds looked to rake in more than $5,000 from the Jackson auction. Dozens of other frivolities he spent his donors’ money on, including two stuffed elk heads and a football signed by U.S. presidents, aren’t part of this auction.
The Jackson items up for auction aren’t the oddest the Marshals Service has sold off to help pay felons’ fines or court-mandated restitution. The underwear of convicted Wall Street fraudster Bernie Madoff was once auctioned by the same Texas-based company contracted to sell the Jackson belongings.
The notoriety surrounding a criminal case can sometimes boost the value of objects that — ironically in the Jacksons’ case — become celebrity memorabilia in their own right, explained Jason Rzepniewski, an auctioneer at the Texas company, Gaston &Sheehan Auctioneers Inc.
Buyers have until Sept. 26 to bid at www.txauction.com for any of the Jacksons’ former possessions that tug at their heart strings. Among the other options is a guitar signed by both Eddie Van Halen and Michael Jackson, who scribbled, “Let Love Fall Like Rain,” next to his signature.
Jesse Jackson Jr., the 48-year-old son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a one-time golden boy of Democratic politics, is now effectively broke thanks to his legal troubles, his lawyers have said.
He also faces prison time.
Within the next several months, Jackson must leave his two school-aged kids and enter a federal facility to begin serving a 2½-year term for to scheming to spend campaign funds on himself and his wife. The same federal judge who sentenced Jackson last month also imposed a yearlong sentence on his wife.