The House Ethics Committee released previously-confidential documents today in its ongoing investigation of Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush and allegations that he accepted improper and illegal contributions – possibly amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to his state and federal campaign committees.
The committee makes public a twenty-page summary report on the allegations – which were first filed with the committee this past January -- that “Rush’s state and federal campaign committees may have accepted in-kind contributions, in the form of free office rental space, in violation of Illinois state law, House rules, and federal law.” That report shows that the six members of the ethics board voted unanimously to pursue those allegations, which involve the apparent lease of an office space on the south side, and more than $365,000 in allegedly free rent, over the past twenty years.
The office in question is Unit C-6 at 3361 S. King Drive in Chicago. The report says Rep. Rush rented that office from Lake Meadows Associates, during his time as a Chicago alderman, from 1989 until 1993, when he was sworn in as a member of Congress. The ethics investigation centers on how the office has been used since then, and the report includes many accounts – from Rep. Rush and others – about how much or how little the office has been used, and for what purpose.
The report quotes Rep. Rush as saying that – although his name is on the door -- the office “just mostly sits there” and has “very little value” due to its location in a blighted and dangerous neighborhood. But others – including Rep. Rush’s brother and son – appear to have told investigators that they did campaign work or held events in the office on behalf of Citizens for Rush, Rep. Rush’s main campaign committee, at various times from the 1990s through last year.
The report says Rep. Rush told the Office of Congressional Ethics that the City of Chicago paid the rent for the office back when he used it as his aldermanic office, but since then, “he has never paid rent for use of the office space and … he has never been asked to pay rent.” But the report also includes ledgers from Draper & Kramer, the current manager of the King Drive office space, showing monthly rental charges for the office, with requests to “write off” the charges or deem them “uncollectable.”
The report says the accumulated “uncollectable” rent would total approximately $365,040 from 1993 to 2013, but “to date, Citizens for Rush has reported no contributions from Lake Meadows Associates or Draper & Kramer, Inc.”
In addition to the twenty-page summary report, the OCE released more than four hundred pages of exhibits, including interviews with campaign workers and Rep. Rush himself. The release also includes a response from Rep. Rush, in which he says that the OCE has greatly exaggerated the value of the office rental, and that “the actual value … is only about $5,600 per year, [which is] within the contribution limits” allowed for his campaign committee.
The documents also show that the ethics board voted unanimously to dismiss a second charge against Rep. Rush, that he made improper donations to the Beloved Community Christian Church – a church which Rep. Rush helped establish in 2002 and which now employs his son as a custodian.
In a press release accompanying today’s report, the OCE says it is continuing its investigation, and that it will “refrain from making further public statements on this matter pending completion of its initial review.”
Review the complete statements here: