Bobby Rush’s $1 Million Conflict

Rep. Bobby Rush, late of the Black Panther terrorist group that advocated insurrection against the government of the United States, is co-sponsor of opposed to* legislation that I am inclined to support. It seems, however, that his incentive for supporting the legislation is roughly a million times greater than mine.

I stumbled on this via Memeorandum by clicking on a Chicago Sun-Times headline, “Rush’s million-dollar conflict?” which I thought referred to a certain radio talk show host.

An Englewood community center founded by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a key player on telecommunications legislation, received a $1 million grant from the charitable arm of SBC/AT&T, one of the nation’s largest phone companies.

The chief of a congressional watchdog group says Rush’s ongoing association with the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation and his role in shaping telecommunications law as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee is a conflict of interest. Using charitable giving as a backdoor way to curry favor with lawmakers is coming under increasing scrutiny, figuring in controversies associated with former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), who was forced to temporarily step aside as the ranking Democrat on the Ethics panel.

On Wednesday, the energy and commerce panel on which Rush sits is set to vote on a controversial rewrite of telecommunications law co-sponsored by Rush and backed by major phone companies eager to compete with cable television companies. “It is a clear conflict of interest for Rep. Rush to weigh in on this bill,” said Sheila Krumholz, the acting executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which researches money in politics. “People can disagree about where to draw the line on contributions and abstaining from votes, but $1 million is definitely over that line.”

Rush is the only Democrat to sponsor the “Communications Opportunity Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006.” He has been working with committee chair Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) to promote the “Barton-Rush” bill.

I have been approached several times since Saturday to come out in support of this legislation but hesitated because the group that is heading up the outreach effort had aligned itself with numerous nutty causes (since stripped from the Website) and also featured Rush quite prominently.

Also, while I am naturally quite prone to favor an Internet enviroment that provides equal access to comparative small fry such as myself, the issues are sufficiently complicated and my time for studying them sufficiently limited that I have thus far refrained from weighing in.

*Correction: I misread the site in question, presuming that Rush was an endorser. Instead, he and Rep. Joe Barton (R, TX) are opponents.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    What more would ou expect from a Chicago Democrat