The U.S. House Ethics Committee revealed this week that it is continuing an investigation of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), focusing on Better Government Association/Chicago Sun-Times disclosures that his campaign committee had received free office space for years.
The unpaid rent for space at the Lake Meadows Shopping Center, 3361 S. Martin Luther King Drive, was worth $365,040 over 20 years, according to an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, or OCE.
The House Ethics Committee is considering whether to discipline Rush, following a referral from OCE, which looked at the matter and said there was “substantial reason” to believe his acceptance of free rent was “in violation of Illinois state law, House rules, and federal law” and that it represented “impermissible gifts or special favors in violation of House rules and standards of conduct.”
The OCE report, made public Monday, quotes its interview with Rush, who said he never paid rent and was never asked to pay rent, but “that he believed his presence in the space served some ‘benefit’ to the landlord because his ‘name was on the door.’”
OCE also investigated $71,000 in campaign donations since 2007 from Rush’s campaign fund to the South Side church where Rush serves as pastor, but did not recommend any further inquiry. Campaign donations to nonprofits do not violate campaign rules as long as a congressman and family members are not personally profiting. The report noted that neither Rush nor his family were paid employees during the period of time that the church received campaign funds. Rush has never been paid by his church.
In a press release, the House Ethics Committee indicated the OCE report is under review, and the committee will continue to gather information. No deadline has been set for the committee to take action or complete its investigation.
The House Ethics Committee can issue public letters of reproval or admonishment to members. The committee can also ask the full House to censure or in extremely rare cases expel a member. And the committee can also decline to take any disciplinary action.
The press release notes “the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”
The BGA wrote a two-part series on Rush that was published in the Sun-Times last December.
READ MORE: A Rush Of Financial Questions
A months-long BGA/Chicago Sun-Times investigation of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is raising serious questions about his personal and professional finances — and whose interests are really being served by him in Congress.
Among the BGA’s findings: A nonprofit founded by Rush was given $1 million to create a “technology center” for a troubled South Side neighborhood. The project never happened, and it’s unclear what happened to the money.