Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BGA has questions on rent and spending on Bobby Rush's campaign

Wow. Once they find one thing then they find something else. Another report published in the Sun-Times by the Better Gov't Association:
Through his spokeswoman Debra Johnson, Rush answered a few questions about the campaign office in the Lake Meadows strip mall at 3361 S. Martin Luther King Drive by email. Asked about not having reported paying rent — currently pegged by his landlord at $20,958 a year — he suggested there’s a loophole in the law that allows him to use the storefront for free or at a discounted rent — though he did not say whether he gets the office rent-free or at a discount.

He also said he doesn’t think he needs to include the campaign office — which he has used since he was 2nd Ward alderman and which has his name on the glass and his campaign posters from the 2012 election in the windows — in his campaign-finance reports because he uses it largely for storage.

“The office currently functions as a storage space for a number of Congressman Rush’s [City] Council and party leader documents and materials,” Rush wrote. “While Rush campaign-related meetings have taken place on isolated occasions . . . Congressman Rush has not used this location as an ongoing campaign office. Therefore, Congressman Rush has never concluded it to be necessary to list this location as a campaign office or to disclose any rents or utility payments for the location in his federal election campaign-finance reports and disclosures.”

Experts on campaign finance, though, say Rush is required by law to report his use of the campaign office — either by reporting to the Federal Election Commission how much he pays in rent or, if he’s getting the space for free or at a discount, to report the value of that to the FEC as an “in-kind” campaign contribution.

In either case, “It has to be reported,” said Paul Ryan of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C.

Even if Rush’s campaign committee doesn’t pay a dime in rent, the 1,506-square-foot space still “has a value to the landlord,” and that has to be reported, said Robert Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director for the House and Senate ethics committees.
House Ethics Committee rules — which limit the use of campaign funds to “bona fide campaign purposes” — could be an issue in Rush’s payments from his campaign fund to his church. The $196,419 he gave to Beloved Community Christian Church since 2004 — paid out in 29 donations — amounted to more than 8 percent of the $2.3 million his campaign raised in that time, according to FEC records.

Larger donations were made around the time Rush’s nondenominational Christian congregation bought an 80-year-old English Gothic-style church building at 6430 S. Harvard, including $25,000 on Jan. 14, 2005, the day Beloved closed on the $800,000 deal and had to make a $200,000 down payment.

In 2012, the church settled a lawsuit filed by Hollub Heating Inc. over $3,285 in unpaid bills for furnace work done in 2009 and 2010, paying off the debt. Around the same time, the Rush campaign fund gave the church a similar amount of money.

The $404,000 that Rush has paid his wife as a consultant falls under the portion of federal election law that allows elected officials to pay family members a “fair-market” rate to work on their campaigns, though it doesn’t say how that’s to be determined.

It’s unclear what role Carolyn Rush plays. The congressman’s office has said she has been experiencing unspecified “acute” medical problems in recent months.

The payments to the congressman’s wife came to $83,049 last year and $39,000 for the first nine months of this year and included a $7,549.12 bonus paid ahead of the March 20, 2012, primary, which Rush won in a landslide, with 83 percent of the vote against five other candidates. In January 2012, Carolyn Rush accompanied her husband on a trip to Liberia and Ghana sponsored by and largely paid for by CARE, the world relief organization, records show. 
Mary Mitchell wrote a column mainly talking about the tech center that Rush was able to get money through his now defunct development corporation. I think what she said on that issue could apply to this as well:
I doubt that Rush had ill intentions when he came up with the idea of building a tech center in Englewood. But it is arrogant to think that one person can serve as a congressman, a pastor and as the head of a community organization without something going awry.

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