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Hurckes attracts national heat

Monday, Mar 31, 2008

* There’s little doubt that Jerry Hurckes - Congressman Dan Lipinski’s chief of staff - is a self-important buffoon. But now he has become a Republican target for allegedly violating House ethics rules.

The alleged violation surfaced after Hurckes objected to an Oak Lawn proposal to hire a federal lobbyist. Hurckes, who is an Oak Lawn trustee, had claimed that the proposal was a deliberate slap in his face because he uses his position to take care of the village…

[Hurckes] has, according to Roll Call, “used his employment with the House to help win local races, repeatedly claiming in campaign literature and public meetings that he is responsible for securing millions in federal ear- marks for the Village of Oak Lawn, while also racking up thousands in campaign contributions from companies with business before Lipinski’s congressional committees.”

* That Roll Call article quoted the House ethics manual…

“In dealing with the public, staff who serve as local officials should always make clear in which capacity they are acting. They should discourage any suggestion that their local constituents will receive special treatment from the congressional office, beyond that received by other residents of the congressional district… No local elective service may be performed in the congressional office or in a manner that utilizes any official resources, including the telephones”

* So, rather than “discouraging” suggestions that Hurckes was helping his village more than another, he promoted his federal position to his constituents. And that could mean that when Hurckes was advocating for Oak Lawn’s projects, he was helping his campaign, which is also prohibited. Oops.

* Hurckes responds

“(Oak Lawn doesn’t) get anything special, and they don’t get put on the bottom either,” he said. He admitted, however, that it can be “a very fine line” to walk.

That’s an awful thin line, particularly since Hurckes is currently running for mayor of Oak Lawn. Turns out, he’s been taking campaign contributions from companies which lobby Congressman Lipinski’s committee

Hurckes’ campaign finance reports also show that he has taken in thousands in campaign contributions from national entities with business before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which both Lipinskis have been members, and in many cases have also donated to one or both of the Congressmen. Donors to Hurckes include UPS, CSX, BNSF and DMJM Harris Inc., a transportation consulting firm.

Interestingly enough, there are no ethics rules regarding this particular situation, probably since it hasn’t ever really come up before now. The reporter who broke the story told Ray Hanania the other day that he can’t find another instance of a congressional staffer who held local office.

* Hurckes was Bill Lipinski’s chief of staff before he worked for the son. He’s getting paid a congressional salary plus cash from both Lipinskis’ campaign funds for consulting work. Hurckes’ congressional salary, according to Roll Call, is just under the federal limit which allows him to have outside income. Convenient.

* The Roll Call article which disclosed the alleged violations was all the talk of DC last week, and the Republicans, who are facing setback after setback, including loads of members under dark clouds of federal investigations, are looking to make some national hay

Congress goes back into session next Tuesday, and when it does, Republicans may gleefully head for the House Ethics Committee to ask for an inquiry into Hurckes’ activities in Lipinski’s office.

Bet on it. And i’m sure they’ll dredge up the accusations of election fraud from his past, including this one recalled by Carol Marin

I once followed Hurckes out of the Bohica Bar on the Southwest Side, where he was “registering voters” who, perhaps confused by whatever they were drinking, listed the bar as their legal residence.

What a guy.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:28 am:

    good old fashioned chicago politics. Seems we need to bring back the muckrakers. It is nice to know that Illinois can help bring to light possible ethic situations that no one had previously envisioned. Go Illinois!

  2. - Leave a light on George - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:28 am:

    Another fine example of “the Chicago way.”

  3. - Snidely Whiplash - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:34 am:

    Open mouth, insert foot, fatally sabotage mayoral campaign. Wait four years, lather, repeat.

  4. - RBD - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 9:50 am:

    Chiefs-of-staff do not live in the district. The job is in Washington, DC. The district office is basically for constituent services (= customer service: finding lost social security checks and the like).

    If Hurckes really is Lipinski’s most senior staffer, the situation is even worse than this sounds.

    But I’d also guess that there is an office full of people in DC just waiting for him to take a big fall.

  5. - anon - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:01 am:

    I’m sure the list of folks waiting for Hurkes go go down is too long to mention. This guy sticks his nose in places it doesn’t belong and has put the screws to many. All dogs have their day and this big one is full of flea’s. Lipinski is a fool to keep this guy on staff.

  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:08 am:

    Not unexpected, small-bore stuff. But nothing on the level of the Duke Cunninghams of the former GOP majority. When the history of Denny Hastert’s tenure as GOP speaker is written, it will be characterized by wild overspending and a complete lack of Congressional oversight into the looting of the treasury by war profiteers.

  7. - anon - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:40 am:

    Maybe someone should also look into campaign phone calls Hurkes made from the congressional office. Especially phone calls made after the election questions folks at work as to why they didn’t support Lipinski. Real smooth Hurkes!

  8. - p - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:53 am:

    Hurckes other employer — Bill Lipinski — is a federal lobbyists whose clients lobby the Congressional Transportation Committee, of which Dan Lipinski is a member.

    Too bad the Oak Lawn people waited until two months after the election to start griping …

  9. - Patrick Kelly - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:28 am:

    The lobbyist Lipinski and his son, who was installed as Congressman by his father in 2004, even share an office. And Dan Lipinksi won easily because his Republican opponent was also installed by Bill Lipinski. The only competition was a from a hastily assembled write-in campaign. At least this time around, there will be a Green Party candidate Jerome Pohlen that will give voters an actual choice for a change.

    In addition to using a false address, isn’t it illegal to register voters at an establishment that serves alcohol? This guy should be thrown out of any position of public trust. He clearly has a disregard for the rules.

  10. - Radical Moderate - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 2:10 pm:

    A few facts need to be stated here:

    1) Dan Lipinski moved his Congressional office about 2 years ago - Dan Lipinski’s new office is much further west on Archer Ave than his Dad’s office.

    2)Like many Congressional offices, there is a Chief of Staff in DC and one in the district. Sometimes the ones in the district are called “District Director” and sometimes the ones in DC are called “Administrative Assistant”, but no matter what they are called, one heads up the DC office and one heads up the district offices. But it is true that the work done in the district - constituent services, outreach to local officials, residents, and businesses - is much different than the legislative policy work done in DC.

    3)Speaking of which, everyone involved with Congress knows that earmarks are decided in legislation in DC by DC committee staff and DC personal staff, not by district Chief of Staffs. Even if Hurckes had tried to get money for Oak Lawn, it still had to compete with other requests from around the district. He could only lobby his DC peers for money, who still had to request earmarks from the committee staff who wrote the legislation. My point - while Hurckes’ words at the Oak Lawn Board meeting may have been out of line and overly boastful, he really didn’t have the power to do anything illegal or unethical here. He clearly overstated his reach.

    4) Hurckes is right that town mayors and trustees should go directly to their Member of Congress rather than to lobbyists. The best lobbyist is a town mayor or a trustee. The real scandal happens when small towns such as Oak Lawn spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a high priced DC lobby firm and they get little in return. It would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to hire a DC lobbying firm when town mayors and officials do a better job of lobbying the legislator directly.

  11. - anon - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 2:34 pm:

    You are correct that mayors and trustee’s are the best lobbyist when seeking funding for their municipalities. But it’s the lobbyist who find the funding source…which pool of money etc., write the propoals, file the paperwork and advise their clients as they go through the process. They also help the DC staff by showing where the funding for certain projects can be allocated from. Mayors and trustee’s don’t have that type of information and neither do district staffers. It is not a “scandal” for small towns to hire lobbyists and it is an incorrect assumption that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

    The real “scandal” here is Jerry Hurkes and his shady behavior. It was only a matter of time before things caught up with this guy. I am VERY confident that more digging on Hurkes will highlight further questionable practices. It’s time for Lipinski to respond.

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