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Lawsuits, Debts Plague Rep. Bobby Rush

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While lawmakers are required to disclose a wide range of personal financial data in annual reports — listing assets such as stocks and savings accounts as well as debts — certain items do not have to be disclosed, including personal and vacation homes.

That exemption applies to the value of the property and any related liabilities, such as mortgages or equity loans, so long as the homes don’t produce any rental income. 

In addition, Members are not required to report on a variety of debts — including taxes owed to the federal, state or local governments. 

Lawmakers are also allowed to leave out any “contingent liabilities” such as payments demanded in ongoing court disputes, as well as any debts they have guaranteed for another debtor.

Rush does not list the $25,000 sought by a Chicago-based electric company in his most recent financial disclosure, which covers calendar year 2009.

The Commonwealth Edison Co. brought a suit against both Rush and the Beloved Community Christian Church, the Chicago-based church where he is the pastor, in an effort to recoup more than $25,000 in unpaid bills.

That case was dismissed in February 2010 at “agreement” of all parties, according to documents in the Cook County Circuit Court. 

“ComEd worked directly with the customer to resolve the case,” ComEd spokeswoman Krissy Posey wrote Thursday in an e-mail. “The customer agreed to pay ComEd and the case was dismissed in Feb. 2010. In cases of non-payment, it is typical for ComEd to work with customers to establish a payment plan to pay off the unpaid balance.”

Posey did not respond to questions about the repayment amount or whether it would be made by Rush or the church. If the debt is to be repaid by the church, Rush would likely not have to list it on his financial disclosure form.

In a response to a series of questions about several lawsuits in which he has been named, Rush said via a spokeswoman that he was never sued by the electric company.

“I was not sued by Commonwealth Edison in 2009,” Rush said. The lawmaker also said he is not personally responsible for other debts held by the church.

Although the church, incorporated in Illinois in 2002 by Marlon Rush, the lawmaker’s brother, continues to operate, its business registration with the state lapsed in 2007 and it was formally dissolved by the state. 

Federal tax officials filed nearly $50,000 in liens against the church in 2010 for unpaid employment taxes. 

A spokeswoman said the Congressman’s office does not respond to inquiries about the church, citing a “bright line” separating the organization and Rush’s Congressional work.

A Tribune report in 2006 stated that Rush and his family are personally responsible for loans related to the church that exceeded $700,000 at that time.

Lawmakers are required to report on loans for which they have co-signed or are personally responsible, but they are not required to disclose business loans for which they are not personally responsible. 

Rush does not report drawing an income from the church, and he is not required to list his post as the church’s pastor on his financial disclosure forms. Although Members must report their memberships in a variety of organizations, religious, social and political groups are excluded.

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