Former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski has dropped his federal lobbying practice after the Better Government Association reported the longtime Chicago congressman was paid $4 million since 2007 by clients with issues before the U.S. House transportation committee on which his son, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, serves.

Among those clients were the Chicago Transit Authority, which paid the elder Lipinski $100,000 a year for lobbying Congress, and Metra, which paid him $60,000 a year to do the same.

Lipinski told his clients he would no longer lobby Congress in January, about two months after the BGA report, records show.

Lipinski didn’t respond to questions about why he dropped his federal lobbying practice. Metra and CTA officials said it was his decision.

Lipinski continues to lobby on behalf of the two agencies in Springfield, for which the CTA pays him $72,000 a year and Metra pays him $60,000, records show.

CTA train

According to the monthly reports he submitted to the two public transit agencies, Lipinski, 78, who works out of his Western Springs home, typically spoke a few times a month with members of Congress by phone and also spoke often by phone with CTA and Metra officials and another Metra lobbyist.

Though Lipinski’s reports didn’t detail how much time he spent lobbying for the two agencies, CTA and Metra officials say his knowledge and contacts were key to their success in obtaining federal funds.

“I’m sure I speak for everyone at Metra in saying that we will very much miss having your assistance with the federal government in the future, ” Martin Oberman, Metra’s chairman, said in a letter to Lipinski.

The two men spoke several times a month, according to Metra records.

“We were sorry to see him go,” CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

Neither agency has hired another federal lobbyist to replace Lipinski.

“I don’t know that he’s replaceable,” Oberman said. “Do you know any other former congressmen that knows all the people he knew and had all the relationships he had?”

Through a combination of federal funding, Metra expects to receive almost $191 million this year, up from almost $162 million in 2015, a spokeswoman said. CTA expects to get about $286 million in federal dollars this year, records show.

Bill Lipinski spent 22 years in Congress, where he was an influential member of the House transportation committee. His son succeeded him in Congress and also is on the transportation committee, whose decisions affect federal funding for road and transit projects nationwide.

Bill and Dan Lipinski

 From left: Bill and Dan Lipinski (Sun Times photo)

The Lipinskis have said they had a policy that the father wouldn’t lobby the son.

The former congressman’s monthly reports to the CTA and Metra during the first six months of 2015 documented that he called U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, the transportation committee’s ranking member, once or twice a month and made two other lobbying calls, one to a U.S. Department of Transportation official and another to a House staffer. During those months, much of his work — 65 calls — consisted of consulting with his clients or another Metra lobbyist.

Things picked up later in the year, as the federal transportation authorization bill — the first long-term road and transit bill in 10 years — finally moved through Congress. It became law in December.

Lipinski’s lobbying intensified in the fall, reporting to the CTA and Metra that he made seven contacts with members of Congress in September, seven in October and nine in November. On behalf of Metra, he also left a voicemail message for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. And, as before, he made many more calls to CTA and Metra officials.

Metra logo
 Photo by Mike Shadle

In November, he reported to Metra that he spoke with three senior members of the transportation committee  — DeFazio, James Duncan and Jerry Nadler — about “what Metra needed in the bill, what they didn’t want in the bill and how to add more funding in the bill.”

And he reported to the CTA that he spoke with those same congressmen “about what the CTA needed in the bill, what they didn’t want in the bill and how to add more funding in the bill.”

Asked about the overlap, Oberman said he had concerns when he learned Lipinski lobbied for both Metra and the CTA but came to feel that he represented both effectively. Also, Oberman said, the agencies weren’t competing for the same funding.

A CTA spokesman said Lipinski worked on one issue of particular concern to the agency — an attempt to put restrictions on transit funding that would have threatened plans to modernize the Red Line and Purple Line.

Dan Lipinski, who declined to comment for this story, authored an amendment to preserve the funding and spoke on the floor of Congress Nov. 4 about its importance. The amendment was passed.

The CTA spokesman said the elder Lipinski lobbied other members of Congress on the issue.

A Chicago native, Sandy Bergo began her professional career as a reporter for the Chicago Reporter, worked as a writer and producer for WBBM Radio, and for 20 years, was a producer with Pam Zekman’s investigative team at WBBM-TV.

She has shared in local and national awards for her work. Her stories have exposed bad doctors, campaign finance irregularities and government waste of taxpayers’ money.

In 2001, Sandy moved with her husband, Chuck Neubauer, to Washington D.C., where she worked as a freelance reporter, television producer and a staff writer for the Center for Public Integrity.

For 10 years until 2019, she was the executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism.

During that time, she collaborated with her husband on investigative stories for the Better Government Association.

Sandy and Chuck have one son and two grandsons.

Chuck Neubauer is an award-winning investigative reporter who has a five-decade track record of breaking high-impact stories about public officials, from Chicago City Council members to powerful members of Congress.

He is currently based in Washington, D.C. after years of working in Chicago as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and earlier for the Chicago Tribune where he shared in a Pulitzer Prize with the late George Bliss for a series on abuses in federal housing programs.

He and his wife, Sandy Bergo, have spent the last 10 years doing freelance investigative stories as special contributors for the Illinois Answers Project and the Better Government Association. Their reporting has looked into the actions of politicians ranging from Ald. Edward M. Burke to former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan to former Rep. Bobby Rush to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. They have also reported on how leaders of the Illinois legislature skirted campaign finance limits and also on the generous pensions some Illinois lawmakers receive.

At the Sun-Times, Neubauer, along with Mark Brown and Michael Briggs, reported in the 1990s that powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxpayer funds to purchase three personal cars, buy expensive gifts for friends and hire staffers who did personal work for him. Those disclosures were the basis for several counts in the federal indictment against Rostenkowski who pleaded guilty and served 17 months in prison.

Neubauer’s reporting also helped lead to federal criminal charges and convictions of former Illinois Governor Dan Walker, Illinois Attorney General William J. Scott and former Illinois State Treasurer Jerry Cosentino.

In 2001, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Los Angeles Times and later the Washington Times, exposing conflicts of interests involving Senate and House leaders.

Neubauer began his career as the BGA’s first intern in 1971 before becoming a reporter.