There is something odd about the following five words: Reverend Congressman Bobby Rush Pastor.
It’s an uncomfortable intermingling of church and state, particularly when, in this case, it seems the South Side Democrat is simultaneously representing both the church and the state.
According to a Better Government Association investigation that appeared in the Sun-Times, the words screamed out over a banner advertising Rush’s church, the Beloved Community Christian Church in Englewood.
What they potentially represent is a set of dire problems for the 11-term congressman.
The investigation found that since 2004, Rush’s congressional campaign gave Rush’s church $194,000, even though House ethics rules dictate that campaign money be used for true campaign purposes.
More troubling, after Rush founded Beloved Community in 2002, ComEd donated a substation to the congressman’s church. A year later, according to the report, Rush supported a merger for ComEd’s parent company in his role as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Rush’s woes go on: repeated unpaid taxes, IRS liens, accepting free rent for his campaign office for years and the potential for violating campaign laws.
When asked about the ComEd substation, which was later abandoned, Rush told reporters: “I’m not going to expose the church to your questions.”
Wait, wasn’t he the one who labeled himself “Reverend Congressman”?
Does this mean he isn’t so fond of merging church and state?
If campaign money did indeed go to Rush’s church, the congressman should open the books.
The allegations have been leveled. The investigation by former Sun-Times reporter Chuck Neubauer and Sandy Bergo includes documents to back up the investigation. So what happens now?
If ever there were a test case for the House Committee on Ethics, this one’s it.
The ethics panel should move swiftly and ultimately give the House Committee on Ethics a chance to show it has teeth. Washington’s reputation for moving at a glacial pace gives voters little recourse until it’s far too late to do anything at the polls.
Rush has long represented the community, so he should not hesitate in complying with the inquiry. Air it out, let the sunlight reach all levels of the office — and church — and do it quickly.
We have seen what happens when ethics questions are raised and left unanswered: The people in the economically diverse district are left without representation.
That’s what happened with the now-imprisoned Jesse Jackson Jr. — and there are some parallels here.
Like Jackson, Rush, 67, pays his wife as a campaign consultant. She has made a total of more than $400,000 in recent years.
While this is allowable under Federal Election Commission rules, it certainly raises more red flags.
Like Jackson, Rush’s wife earned a year-round salary for managing a campaign that didn’t do all that much. Rush has repeatedly sailed to re-election, facing no major opposition since 2000, and he usually gets 80 percent of the vote.
In Jackson’s case, the 2nd District went without representation for nearly a year as the congressman went underground, citing illness but holding onto his seat until just after he was re-elected.
Then he resigned.
When he did, Jackson acknowledged what the Sun-Times had already reported at that point: A federal probe into his campaign account was underway.
The state then had to pay the cost of a special election.
Let’s not wait until this matter with Rush stretches out months or years, past primary and general elections.
Let the ethics panel show it is capable of promptly vetting the issue. And let Rush — in his capacity as a congressman and a reverend — lead the way.