U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush has served in Congress for 20 years, fighting for his South Side constituents and against injustice wherever he sees it.
And for that, Rush deserves our gratitude.
But no one — particularly a public servant accused of using campaign funds to subsidize his church, of squandering grant dollars and of being too cosy with companies that rely on his support in Congress — is above reproach.
A serious and somber accounting of Rush’s alleged misdeeds is in order.
The Chicago Sun-Times this month published a Better Government Association investigation of Rush, covering his campaign spending, his personal finances and the failure of a nonprofit that Rush founded.
The investigation by Chuck Neubauer and Sandy Bergo included several damning revelations. Topping the list was news that a $1 million grant by SBC in 2000 — now called AT&T — to a nonprofit founded by Rush toward the creation of a “technology center” in Englewood amounted to very little. Rush is unable or unwilling to show where most of that money ended up.
Since 2001, the BGA found, charities affiliated with Rush were given more than $1.7 million by telecommunication and utility companies seeking his support in Congress.
The investigation also revealed that Rush’s campaign committee subsidized the South Side church founded by Rush, the congregation’s pastor. Beloved Community Christian Church received more than $196,000 since June 2004.
We also learned that for the past dozen years Rush hasn’t reported paying any rent for his campaign office, what experts say could be a violation of federal election law or House ethics rules.
And, in his personal life, the investigation showed that Rush and the two nonprofits he founded repeatedly have failed to pay federal, state or local taxes on time, a pattern of tax delinquency that goes back a decade.
In a column this week, BGA President Andy Shaw laid out some specific ways to ensure a public accounting of Rush’s actions. We offer our support for those recommendations:
- The House Ethics Committee should investigate Rush’s subsidizing of his church, the million-dollar grant, his charity accepting money from companies seeking his legislative help and his campaign office apparently failing to pay rent.
- The Federal Election Commission should investigate whether Rush or his campaign violated federal law by apparently failing to pay rent.
- The IRS could investigate the tax implication of Rush’s alleged missteps.
Rush rarely has a serious challenger, including the upcoming March primary, where he has no Democratic challenger at all.
But no public servant should assume no one is watching, that their seat always will be safe.