Dem Rep. Bobby Rush Sued for $1 Million to Collect Unpaid Loan for Church He Founded

Wellness center connected to church has received $17 million in gov't grants

Rep. Bobby Rush / Getty Images
December 11, 2017

Democratic representative Bobby Rush is being sued for $1 million after failing to make payments on a loan he received for a church he founded in his home district in Illinois.

A wellness center linked to the church has also collected more than $2.6 million in taxpayer-funded government grants in 2017 and more than $17 million in grants since 2008, according to records.

Rush founded the Beloved Community Christian Church, a nondenominational Christian church, in Chicago in 2002 with the intent of helping disadvantaged people in his community.

"I founded a church in Englewood, one of Chicago's poorest and most fragile neighborhoods, and named it Beloved Community Christian Church," Rush wrote in a 2011 op-ed. "The church, once the site of a Black Panther breakfast program for children, now stands in tribute to Dr. King's vision of the power of community. A social service center, a health center and an after school robotics program are also part of the church's mission to care for people."

Rush initially paid $800,000 for the site of his church with the help of a $550,000 loan from New City Bank. At the time, Rush founded Rebirth of Englewood, a community development organization, with the intent of building a technology center, affordable housing, and various other programs to help the community—much of which never happened, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Now, the loan Rush secured has gone delinquent, and the creditor is seeking to recoup the money through the Cook County court system. A $1.1 million judgment was issued against Rush for $542,000 in unpaid principal, $441,000 in interest, and nearly $50,000 in attorney fees.

Rep. Rush's church was forced to move from its original location in 2014 after its stained-glass windows were shattered by severe weather and left open to the elements. As a result, the creditors have chosen to seek the money owed on the promissory note rather than foreclosing on the vacant unit, which has been hard to sell.

Rush has also steered hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign funds to the church.

Just two years after the church had opened its doors, the congressman began sending donations from Citizens for Rush, his federal campaign committee, to the church. Rush has since sent $200,000 from his campaign's funds to the church.

Rush founded Beloved Community Family Services, a nonprofit network, in 2004 with a mission of providing "compassionate services to promote cultural, economic and social well-being."

Rush later requested a $100,000 earmark for his group that was ultimately approved and tacked onto an appropriations bill in 2008 in the amount of $305,500. Beloved Community Family Services received sub-grants totaling $196,470 between 2012 and 2014, according to records.

The Beloved Community Family Wellness Center, the social services arm of Rush's church, is a not-for-profit federally qualified health center that provides "comprehensive, accessible, timely, and affordable primary health care, preventive education, and social service programs available to the Greater Englewood and surrounding communities."

Kacy Rush, Rep. Rush's daughter, is listed as a member of the center on its most recently available tax forms from 2015 and as a director on its website.

The center has been awarded $17 million in taxpayer-funded government grants since 2008, with $2,625,269 in grants going to the center just this year, records show.

Rush has also come under fire for his failure to pay taxes on his associated entities.

The Better Government Association, an Illinois-based government watchdog organization, found in 2013 that Rush and two nonprofits that he had founded failed to pay federal, state, and local taxes in a timely manner, with some of the actions dating back a decade.

Rep. Rush's office did not return a request for comment by press time.