Rep. Bobby Rush Paid Wife $550K From Campaign Funds, Kicked $190K to Church He Founded

Social services arm of church received $14 million in government grants in recent years

Bobby Rush
Bobby Rush / AP
July 8, 2016

Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) has paid both his wife and the church he founded hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign’s coffers since 2002, campaign finance records show.

Campaign expenditures also show funds were given to a number of other Rush family members throughout the years. Additionally, more than $14 million in taxpayer-backed government grants were awarded to a wellness center associated with the church he founded in Chicago.

Rep. Rush, who was elected to Congress in 1992, first began paying his wife, Carolyn Rush, in 2002. More than $67,231 in payments were made to her name during this election cycle. For the 2002 and 2004 cycles, Mrs. Rush was paid $6,000 for salary and wages from Citizens for Rush, the congressman’s campaign committee.

Mrs. Rush began receiving checks for "consulting services" in 2008 on top of salary and wages as she pulled in $98,650 from the committee. This amount equated to more than a quarter of the campaign’s total operating expenditures this cycle.

Mrs. Rush’s payments increased again in 2010 to $119,400. She was paid $148,000 in 2012. She took in $66,000 in 2014.

She has collected $50,000 from Rush’s 2016 campaign to date and has pulled in more than $550,000 in campaign funds combined since she first began receiving checks in 2002.

She was also not the only family member to appear on his campaign’s payroll.

Marlon Rush, Rep. Rush’s brother, has collected more than $10,000 from the committee. His son, Flynn, pocketed hundreds for polling and petition drive services. His sister, Judy, also received at least $800 at one point for office management and receptionist work. At least three other Rush family members have also received payments from his campaign.

In addition to the payments made to his family members, the congressman also kicked over $200,000 from his campaign funds to the Beloved Community Christian Church in Chicago, a non-denominational church he founded in 2002.

"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 published in the Huffington Post. "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 began pouring money from his campaign committee to his church just two years after opening its doors. In 2004, $38,500 made its way from Citizens for Rush to the Beloved Community Christian Church.

The flow of money continued in 2006, as $84,482 was given to Beloved. Between 2010 and 2014, $32,000 more made its way to the church. Rush is still a pastor at the church today.

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

He requested a $100,000 earmark for the nonprofit that was ultimately approved in 2008. The earmark was tacked onto an appropriations bill and was made in the amount of $305,500.

The nonprofit also received a $290,663 grant from the Department of Justice in fiscal year 2008.

The social services arm of Rush’s church, the Beloved Community Family Wellness Center, has also been the recipient of millions worth of taxpayer-funded federal grants since 2008.

The Beloved Community Wellness Center 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."

Between 2008 and 2016, the wellness center was awarded more than $14 million in government contracts, mainly from the Department of Health and Human Services, according to public records.

Rush has come under fire for failing to pay taxes attached to his nonprofits and entities he owns.

The Better Government Association, a watchdog group based in Illinois, conducted an investigation in 2013 that found Rush and two of the non-profits he launched failed to pay federal, state, or local taxes on time and the actions dated back a decade in some circumstances.

Rush’s campaign has come under scrutiny this election cycle by the Federal Election Commission.

The commission sent a letter on May 15 to the treasurer of his campaign committee requesting additional information on its April quarterly report.

Rush’s campaign disclosed contributions from organizations that are not registered with the FEC, failed to provide proper election designations for contributions, and failed to provide a brief description on some itemized disbursements in some circumstances.

The campaign was also warned about its cash transactions.

"Please be advised that cash disbursements to any person or vendor for any single purchase or transaction may not exceed $100," the letter states. "If payments to the original vendor exceed $200 in an election cycle, a memo entry including the name of the original vendor as well as address, date, amount, and purpose of the original purchase must be provided."

On March 15, $23,000 in cash was given to the committee’s treasurer, Sheila Jackson, to "pay election day workers", according to his finance records.

"Failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in an audit or enforcement action," the letter warned. The response date was June 20.

The FEC confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that the committee has not provided a response to the commission’s inquiries as of July 5.

When reached for comment on this story, Rep. Rush’s press secretary, Debra Johnson, said the congressman has already addressed the inquiries and provided three articles to the Free Beacon.

One wrote of how Rush previously failed to pay rent on his campaign office, another was on the Better Government Association’s investigation on his failure to pay taxes, and the third was on the FEC questioning his current campaign expenditures.