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Today’s must-read

Friday, Dec 13, 2013

* The Sun-Times has a very long and very good story today about the intersection between politics, corporate lobbying and not-for-profits

In 2000, in the midst of a bruising but ultimately victorious Democratic primary battle against then-state Sen. Barack Obama, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) launched the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corp.

Funded with a $1 million grant from telecommunications giant SBC and the promise of another $175,000 from Congress, the not-for-profit agency’s aim was to help revive the violence-plagued South Side neighborhood, Rush said.

A key element of that, Rush and SBC said, would be the creation of the Bobby L. Rush Center for Community Technology. […]

The money from SBC — now called AT&T — would go toward the center, which was supposed to teach computer skills to neighborhood residents and serve as a small-business incubator in a community that badly needed one.

And the $175,000 in taxpayer money later approved by Rush’s colleagues in Congress was supposed to buy and renovate a building near 68th and Halsted to house the facility.

More than a decade later, though, there’s no technology center. And it’s unclear what happened to the money.

It’s unclear from the story whether this was pure incompetence or pilfering or both, but one thing you need to remember when reading the piece is this

Rush has served since 1995 on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees telecommunications and energy. For years, he has been on its telecommunications subcommittee, with a key role in telecom legislation.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - John A Logan - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:21 am:

    This is truly an amazing read. Mind blowing that Mr. Rush can keep a straight face while saying that the reporter is “splitting hairs” over whether or not the money was spent on high tech programs. Rush says “I couldn’t answer whether they were high tech or low tech…lets stop splitting hairs.” Unreal.

  2. - Bored Chairman - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    Wonder what the young Bobby Rush would think of the old Bobby Rush?

  3. - And I Approved This Message - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:34 am:

    Seems like an awful lot of money to just “go missing.” Anybody check his office for elk heads?

  4. - DuPage Dave - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 11:58 am:

    This is a big league move for Rush, who doesn’t get much respect as a Congressman. To get a million dollars from a corporation regulated by a committee on which you serve directed to a not-for-profit you control and then have the money disappear is brilliant. No one will ever know how the money was used. No one will ever dig very deep into the now-defunct not-for-profit. My guess is that the Sun-Times article will be the last we hear of this.

    Interesting that the building is now operated by another tax-exempt entity controlled by Rush. He’s the energizer bunny of local politics.

  5. - Whatever - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 12:21 pm:

    Surprise! Not.

  6. - Charlatan Heston - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 12:24 pm:

    ” the intersection between politics, corporate lobbying and not-for-profits…”…I sure hope this is not a new concept for the Sun-Times……I am sure Rush is not alone

  7. - dupage dan - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 12:37 pm:

    I wonder what the US Attorney thinks about this?

  8. - Cook County Commoner - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    Doing business in the US and most states is the same as doing business in third world countries. Needy politicians must be paid. The irony is that if a US business does this sort of thing in a foreign country, it can run afoul of US law against bribing foreign officials. But here the First Amendment comes to the rescue. And the proof necessary to prove a “quid pro quo” in the US protect everyone except the most inept.

  9. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:12 pm:

    And yet the Congressman says “he’s sure every penny was spent toward programs in the Englewood community”. If we could just get the definition of “program”, we’d be able to follow the money. Ugh!

  10. - train111 - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:18 pm:

    The tragic thing is tha Rush will get reelected this year with 70% + of the vote, so he has absolutely no motivation to do anything differently.
    The GOP probably had their best candidate 2 years ago in Blue Island Mayor Donald Peloquin who carried the Will Counhty part of the district along with the Cook Suburbs. Rush got 96.5% of the vote in Chicago however and cruised to victory.
    I doubt that the GOP can do any better this year with an unknown even though Rush is quite disliked in many non-Chicago areas of his district.

  11. - Irish - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:44 pm:

    Rush was quoted on the news this am as saying that the money went to tech type “programs” at various entities in his district and that ATT was happy with those programs.

    ATT had no comment when called.

  12. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 1:55 pm:

    He added that he wasn’t sure if they were High Tech or Low Tech. Oy. He might suggest they were Medium Tech. I think they were No Tech.

  13. - dupage dan - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 2:10 pm:

    So, low tech? Was he teaching folks how to make the wheel?

  14. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 2:19 pm:

    –Doing business in the US and most states is the same as doing business in third world countries.–

    Yeah, just like that. Try doing business in the Third World sometime. Or Russia and China, for that matter.

    You’ll miss that Rule of Law in a hurry.

    Congratulations on your successful completion of the Scott Reeder Online School of Absurd Analogies.

  15. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 2:23 pm:

    To the issue, Rush is a cheap date.

    Both Emanuel and Rauner made exponentially bigger scores wheeling-and-dealing with SBC.

  16. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 2:44 pm:

    Even by Chicago standards, this is startling and a definite must-read.

    $1 million simply goes “missing”? While the Congressman sponsors legislation favoring the “donor”? And nobody knows nuttin’?

    Come on now.

  17. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:00 pm:

    The notion that there were never plans to build an actual “center” or that all this money melted away to “programs” is laughable.

    Rush publicly announced they would build a physical location and use it to conduct training. He clearly states this in press releases and interviews from 2001-2003.

    They buy a building to renovate for the center in 2004.


    Then the rest just disappears? #Fishy #IfYouSaySo

  18. - Cook County Commoner - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:18 pm:

    @ Wordslinger
    As a matter of fact, I have done business in Russia, China, Vietnam and Thailand
    I guess “absurd” depends on the range of one’s experience. I found Vietnam similar to Cook County. There, the translator called it a “facilitation fee.” And the Rule of Law can be as much a club as a shield.

  19. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:27 pm:

    I’ve done business in China and a few countries in South America. It’s actually been very straight forward and pretty easy up until clearing customs here in the US which can be more time consuming. In my experience, it’s been the Rule of Money more than the Rule of Law. And everyone understands the rules.

  20. - A guy... - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:29 pm:

    Sorry for veering off there. I do agree with WS that the analogy is absurd.

  21. - shore - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 3:29 pm:

    I’m strongly against politicians in office helping secure buildings/progams named after them. I think half of west virginia is named after Robert Byrd.

    I credit the sun times. I don’t always agree with their editorial point of view, but they really dog stories like this which the kiddies on buzzfeed and Huff Post do not.

  22. - wordslinger - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 4:06 pm:

    –And the Rule of Law can be as much a club as a shield.–

    LOL, you keep your money in China, Russia and Thailand?

    The Eternal Victims are always running down the United States because of “regulation” while talking up the Chinese commies.

    Ask CAT how they did with that formerly state-owned mining company they bought in China.

    You’re in business because some warlord says you are. When they say you’re out, you’re out. Don’t like it? Good luck.

  23. - Brendan - Friday, Dec 13, 13 @ 4:07 pm:

    A bribe by any other name?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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