Rep. Bobby Rush has been sued repeatedly in local courts for contract disputes including unpaid bills, but thanks to quirks in Congressional reporting requirements, his annual financial reports offer no hint of that fiscal turbulence.
According to public court records and media reports, the Illinois Democrat has been named in nearly two dozen lawsuits since the early 1980s, most recently disputes over his home mortgages and bills owed by the Chicago church he leads.
When the Chicago Tribune reported in 2006 that Rush had faced more than 20 lawsuits since the 1980s, including disputes over automobile loans, he told the newspaper: “I’m an easy target.”
The lawmaker also told the Tribune that the lawsuits were frivolous, but he has had to pay off debts in several of the cases.
But Rush’s financial disclosure reports — in which Members detail their assets, liabilities and other personal information — offer no details on these debts. He generally lists on the annual forms a few trips, his spouse’s employment status and his posts on charitable organizations that he helped create. Rush has listed no assets or liabilities since his election in 1992.
Most of the court cases, even those in which Rush has ultimately agreed to pay a debt, appear to be outside the bounds of financial reporting, either because the cases are tied to property that does not have to be reported on the forms — such as Rush’s primary residence — or otherwise fall below reporting thresholds.
Among the most recent cases, Chicago-based New City Bank filed suit in November against Rush and his wife, Carolyn, alleging the couple had breached mortgage contracts on homes in Illinois and Michigan.
The lawsuit, citing the couple’s failure to pay taxes on both properties, demanded the immediate repayment of both mortgages and a home equity line of credit valued at more than $600,000 combined.
According to documents from the Cook County Circuit Court, the bank dropped its lawsuit in January.
“With respect to Congressman Rush, this really was not a big deal,” Stephen Gorman, the bank’s attorney, said Friday. “We filed a suit, his lawyers immediately contacted us, it was worked out within a matter of a few days.”
Cook County Treasurer’s Office records show Rush paid more than $1,900 in property taxes in November, eight months after the March due date. Rush paid an additional $1,800 in December.
Tax records from the Berrien County, Mich., government show the condominium association for Rush’s vacation home placed a lien on that property in February 2010 for nearly $3,700 in unpaid assessments. That lien was lifted in April 2010.
It is not the first time the homes have been the subject of legal proceedings.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2005 that the Rushes had faced foreclosure lawsuits, brought by Washington Mutual, on the same two properties for failing to pay their monthly mortgages.
A foreclosure sale was scheduled for the Michigan property but ultimately canceled.