U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., stops to talk with reporters before a meeting last year to discuss how to solve the state's nearly pension crisis. (AP File Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Ethics inquiry begins against Rep. Rush after Sun-Times/BGA story
WASHINGTON — Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said the Office of Congressional Ethics has a pending inquiry against him, triggered most likely by Chicago Sun-Times stories raising questions about spending from his campaign fund and the handling of a $1 million grant, among other issues.
Rush’s “Citizens for Rush” campaign fund has paid $5,000 to the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro for the OCE inquiry, Rush told me.
“I’ve been cooperative,” Rush said. He said he wants the OCE to “affirm” that he has not violated any rules. “I have been just totally, totally cooperative, open and cooperative and I encouraged anybody they wanted to talk to” to be “honest and frank about it.”
His attorney, Scott Thomas, told me “we assume that this stems from some of those news stories that came out in December” and they are responding “in a cooperative fashion.”
Rush has not been interviewed by anyone from the OCE.
Scott said, “I am sure that time will come…We have been totally cooperative and we hope that this matter will be fully resolved without any need for sanction.”
In December, a Chicago Sun-Times/Better Government Association probe of Rush by Chuck Neubauer and Sandy Bergo reported that Rush had little to show for a $1 million grant Rush secured from SBC (later rebranded as AT&T) for a non-profit he founded in Englewood.
Neubauer and Bergo also reported that Rush, who is a minister, used money from his campaign fund for his Beloved Community Christian Church and has not reported paying rent for his campaign office, a potential violation of House ethics rules.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is an independent, non-partisan organization “charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the United States House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics.”
(One of the eight OCE members is former Rep. Judy Biggert R-Ill.)
An OCE spokesman declined to comment on the Rush inquiry. It is not unusual for the OCE to follow-up about revelations in news reports.
BACK IN THE CAPITOL
Rush is back in Washington, returning last month after taking a leave starting on Sept. 12 to take care of his ailing wife, Carolyn. During that time he was working out of his district office.
Rush said he was “surprised” by his warm welcome back from colleagues who “not only did they pray for my wife, and ask about my wife, they kind of reassured me or reaffirmed that I did the right thing in their eyesight" by taking the leave.
Carolyn Rush worked as a $3,000-a-month “consultant” for Rush’s campaign. There were no payments listed for her so far in 2014 on the latest Federal Election Commission disclosure running through the end of February.
Rush ran unopposed in the March 18 Illinois Democratic primary and faces only nominal GOP opposition in the heavily Democratic South Side First Congressional District.