In the wake of a Better Government Association investigation into his campaign spending and personal finances, U.S. Representative Bobby Rush is facing increasing calls to answer troubling ethics questions along with speculation over his future.
Earlier this month, the Sun-Times published a BGA investigation showing a $1 million grant from telecommunications giant AT&T in 2000 has essentially gone missing, while the tech center the money was earmarked for remains unbuilt. As well, $175,000 in taxpayer money later approved by Congress to buy and renovate a building to house the facility is also unaccounted for.
The BGA also found that Rush’s campaign committee gave a South Side church founded by Rush more than $196,000 since June 2004 and paid Rush's wife Carolyn Rush a year-round salary since 2007 totaling $404,000 as a consultant. The money represents nearly a quarter of the $1.6 million the congressman's campaign fund raised in that time.
Other problems, such as repeated unpaid taxes, IRS liens, accepting free rent for his campaign office for years and the potential for violating campaign laws, are swirling around the iconic congressman as well.
Rush, who has represented Illinois’ 1st Congressional District for more than 20 years, has denied any wrongdoing in a series of interviews, while also saying he "tries to comply with all applicable House ethics, codes of conduct and campaign rules and regulations."
Yet, despite an iconic history of civil rights advocacy and serving 11 terms, often winning re-election easily, Rush is facing the kind of scrutiny that damages even the most well-liked politicians in the eyes of voters.
In their report, the BGA called for a series of further investigations by the House Ethics Committee, the Federal Election Committee and the IRS into the tangle of personal and political finance issues.
As well, word is starting to circulate that Rush may well be planning his retirement, with a scenario where his re-election to a 12th term gives way to a hand-picked successor.
In a recent editorial, the Sun-Times seemed to fall just short of calling for a serious challenger to step up in the March Democratic primary, if not later, and hold Rush accountable at the ballot box.
Taken together, the news for Congressman Bobby Rush at the end of 2013 hasn't been good. And, unless a whole lot of new answers to troubling questions are found, 2014 may not look much better, either.