Over the past five years, Rep. Bobby L. Rush has spent more than a tenth of his campaign’s receipts on the church he founded, a tidy tithe totaling $152,777.
It’s an example of how the campaign finance system allows candidates and office-holders to redirect funds to institutions they care about.
Other lawmakers have influenced their communities — and preserved their legacies — by setting up tax-exempt nonprofits, often in the defense and technology industries, to take advantage of federal grant, contract and earmark opportunities.
Rush’s approach is different because a church is his center of operations and he concentrates on social services. But what his approach has in common with those of other lawmakers is the earmarking of tax dollars — Rush earmarked nearly $700,000 for two related social services entities he helped establish.
The earmarks do not appear to have violated any rules, and there’s nothing illegal about the Illinois Democrat’s contributions to Beloved Community Christian Church as it built a new home in the shadow of the Dan Ryan Expressway near the intersection of South Harvard Avenue and West 64th Street.
And there is no question that many of the services provided by Rush’s nonprofit network — from pre-natal care to HIV testing and prostate cancer screening — are desperately needed in the South Side-based 1st District, which is among the poorest in the state.