Henry Rodgers, DCNF
The House Ethics Committee announced two Illinois Democrats were in violation of chamber rules Thursday, ordering they both pay back thousands of dollars to the government for their actions.
Illinois Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush and Luis Gutierrez were both formally reproved by the Ethics committee on the same day, but for separate violations. Both cases were first investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics and found “substantial reason to believe” Rush and Gutierrez had violated House rules, Politico reported.
Gutierrez paid a former staffer, Doug Scofield, for a decade out of his official congressional account, although he was not working for Gutierrez. Scofield was instead doing consultant work for the Democratic congressman but was being paid with government money. Gutierrez now has to personally repay the Treasury Department $9,700 for improper payments to the former aide. The committee did find Gutierrez’s actions unintentional.
“The Ethics Committee concluded, as I did, that any misuse of funds was ‘inadvertent’ and done with the approval of Committee on House Administration and the Office of House Finance,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “I am glad this review is resolved and that the Ethics Committee exonerated me of any willful or intentional wrongdoing. After five years the Ethics Committee came to the same conclusion I reached in 2013 when this was first brought to my attention.”
Rush was found in violation for accepting the use of free office space in Chicago. The Committee ruled that Rush must personally repay the rental company over $14,600.
The announcement comes as it was reported that Rush would lose 15 percent of his salary due to repayment of the more than $1 million he owes for making a delinquent loan for a church he started in Chicago. Cook County Circuit Judge Alexander White ordered the garnishment of more than $2,100 a month from Rush’s annual $174,000 salary in early March.
Rush, who has served in congress for 25 years, was ordered to pay back the original $550,000 June 2005 loan that New City Bank granted him and seven other co-signers. Rush bought a church in Englewood, Chicago, with the loan money. The order came after the church stopped making its monthly payments in November 2011, causing creditors to sue the Democratic congressman.
“Following its investigation, the Committee concluded that the rent-free office space was a gift to Representative Rush, which he accepted in violation of House rules and federal law,” the Ethics report stated. “The Committee unanimously found that Representative Rush must repay the value of the impermissible gift, amend his Financial Disclosure statements to reflect the gift, and either vacate the office space or commence paying for the space within six weeks of the publication of this Report.”
The committee did not specify how long the Illinois congressmen have to repay the money they owe to the federal government.
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