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The [Wednesday] Papers

"They called themselves the 'Chicago connection' and appeared confident that their contacts with Illinois politicians would help persuade newly elected President Barack Obama to lift longtime economic sanctions against leaders in Zimbabwe, according to federal charges unsealed Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

"The two, Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner, were charged with violating federal law by lobbying on behalf Zimbabwe's longtime president, Robert Mugabe, whose violent and oppressive regime has been the target of U.S. economic sanctions since 2003."

But here's the interesting part:

"According to the charges, Ben Israel and Turner attempted to persuade undisclosed federal and state government officials - including an Illinois state senator and two U.S. representatives from Chicago - to push for the lifting of the sanctions. The two reached a consulting agreement with Zimbabwe officials to be paid $3.4 million, authorities charged, but it was unclear whether they received any money."

So who was the state senator and who were the U.S. representatives?

"The 56-page criminal complaint described in detail how Ben Israel and Turner allegedly enlisted the support of a 'State Senator A,' who hoped that the election of Obama would cause the U.S. to take a fresh look at Zimbabwe.

"That same state senator wrote in a 2009 letter that he had made a 'commitment' to Mugabe and could use his leadership position with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators to organize a delegation to travel to Zimbabwe and fight for the removal of the sanctions, according to the complaint.

"Records show that state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, chairs the international committee of that caucus. Efforts to reach Trotter were unsuccessful Tuesday. His attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, said he had not seen the complaint and had no comment.

"Ben Israel and Turner were successful in arranging for State Senator A and several other lawmakers to meet with Mugabe and other top Zimbabwean officials during several trips there in 2008 and 2009, according to the charges."

And the reps?

"The charges also described the two Chicago congressmen as sponsors of a failed 2010 House resolution to end the Zimbabwe sanctions. Congressional records show that the only Illinois congressmen to sponsor that bill were U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, both Chicago Democrats.

"Reached by phone, Davis said he has known the two defendants for 'at least 40 years or more' but would not comment on whether he traveled to Zimbabwe or lobbied for lifting the sanctions."

You won't just say "No," Danny?

*

"In a written response Tuesday night, Rush said he has known Ben Israel for 30 years and called him a small-business man and advocate for Africa and African-American issues. 'This is the first I've heard of this,' he said when asked by the Tribune if he was one of the congressmen referred to in the complaint.

"Rush said he canceled a planned trip to Liberia, Ghana, Angola and South Africa in 2009 because he was ill. He said he did not send four of his staffers in his place but that they went as House committee staffers."

So the major players have been identified.

*

"Though none of the politicians the men approached are named in court papers or is accused of any crime, the complaint makes it clear that U.S. Representatives Danny Davis and Bobby Rush were targeted," the Sun-Times reports.

"Both co-sponsored a 2010 bill that sought a review of the sanctions, which were intended to rein in the fraud, violence, intimidation and vote rigging that Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have increasingly relied upon."

That would be this Robert Mugabe.

*

"The defendants allegedly cited their associations with officials who had connections to then President-Elect Barack Obama," the Wall Street Journal reports.

They arranged a meeting for an Illinois State senator with Mr. Mugabe in November 2008, and they entered into a 'consulting agreement' in late-November 2008 that called for an initial payment of $90,000 and three subsequent installments of about $1.1 million, prosecutors said.

They never received the initial payment, according to the complaint, because an unnamed U.S. bank refused to complete the wire transfer after looking into the circumstances surrounding the transaction.

However, they still were trying to get an audience for lifting the sanctions, the complaint stated. The defendants arranged for Mr. Ben Israel to join the Illinois state senator and a state representative for a trip to South Africa in December 2008. Travel records cited in the complaint say they went to Israel but didn't return as scheduled, extending their trips.

Three days later, the complaint said, a scheduler for Mr. Obama's transition team sent an email to another member of the team saying that the state representative "wants a phone call from [transition team officials] regarding a meeting he had last week in Zimbabwe. I am not sure who to pass this on to but it's the second time they have called."

The transition team forwarded the email to the FBI out of concern the state lawmaker violated sanctions by traveling to Zimbabwe., the complaint said.

The work continued through 2009, including plans arranged for the state lawmakers to travel to Zimbabwe in January, the complaint said. The state senator canceled his trip, but the state representative did travel to Africa, the complaint said.

So there's a state senator in the mix too.

Bobby Rush Bonus Item
"U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush defended his role in a controversial South Side rail project Tuesday, saying racially biased reporting unfairly characterized his recommendation that Metra pay $50,000 to a little-known Washington, D.C., group to monitor minority participation," the Tribune reports.

Racially biased reporting like this?

"The congressman said he could not recall who specifically from the rail agency sought his advice.

"Though the announcement remained on the chamber's website as of Tuesday night, Rush accused the Tribune of lying about the partnership.

"I never had a partnership," he said. "I have a working relationship."

Point, set, match, Tribune.

*

"He also called a Tribune reporter 'evil' and accused the newspaper of having a historic bias against the black community dating back to its coverage of the 1969 killings of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark."

Well, that's partially true in that the Tribune does not have a proud history when it comes to race. But that doesn't account for Rush's sleazy tenure in the United States Congress.

"The congressman accused the newspaper of inaccurately reporting that 25 percent of the project's original bid went to minority-owned firms and met the legal requirement. He insists the true percentage is closer to 3 percent. His number, however, does not factor in women-owned firms, which are designated as disadvantaged business enterprises under federal law and were a significant part of the bid.

"Rush also objected to the Tribune's assertion that neither Metra nor the congressman's office had been monitoring the agreement since Clifford refused to cut the $50,000 check. Both Metra and Rush's spokesman said last week that they weren't scrutinizing the agreement."

Point, set, match, Tribune.

*

Previously in Bobby Rush:

Beachwood, April 27, 2006:

Sweet follows up today on her report about the SBC Foundation giving $1 million to U.S. congressman Bobby Rush's Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation.

"Rush founded the nonprofit, tax-exempt Rebirth of Englewood center, located in his South Side congressional district, to improve the economy of the impoverished Englewood community. Rush sits on its board as does his wife, Carolyn, and the center employs his son, Flynn," Sweet writes.

"Payments for the $1 million grant were made by the SBC Foundation between 2001 and 2004 to underwrite the Bobby L. Rush Center for Community Technology, envisioned as a training and business resource facility for the Englewood area. SBC acquired AT&T and switched to using the better-known name. The Rush Center still has not opened, though officials are hopeful it will within 12 months . . .

"[T]he Rebirth of Englewood . . . has federal and state contracts, and entities tied to the Beloved Christian Community Church of which Rush is the founder and the pastor. Rush uses money from his federal campaign fund to keep the church afloat."

*

Beachwood, May 3, 2006:

It's hard to believe that U.S. congressman Bobby Rush is so dense as to not understand why accepting a million-dollar grant from AT&T's charitable arm for his Englewood community center while sitting on a committee that helps set the nation's telecommunications policy could be fairly construed as a conflict-of-interest, so we can reasonably conclude that he's simply being disingenuous in his attack on Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet, who broke the Rush story [dead link] last week.

Appearing on Chicago Tonight last night, Rush called Sweet's story "shoddy journalism" and called Sweet "lazy" for apparently not calling the House ethics committee for a determination of whether Rush had a conflict-of-interest.

If she had called, Rush insisted, she would have learned that there was no conflict. Hence, no story.

Rush can't really believe this. But instead of explaining why the confluence of events looks bad - particularly because he is the only Democrat to sponsor a controversial phone industry-backed bill - but is in reality an entirely up-and-up matter, Rush won't even concede that it looks bad.

"No, it doesn't look bad!" he exclaimed. "As a matter of fact, it looks pretty good!"

*

Beachwood, July 12, 2010:

"Rush has been leading the charge against net neutrality since 2006, when he cosponsored a telecommunications bill with Texas Republican Joe Barton (lately noted for his defense of BP)," Curtis Black writes.

"As Newstips noted at the time, that bill was introduced just before the Sun-Times revealed a $1 million donation from SBC and AT&T to a charity founded by Rush."

*

Beachwood, January 17, 2012:

"U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Luis Gutierrez of Chicago have racked up so many absences from the House floor that their voting records are among the worst in Congress," the Tribune reports.

"Rush has missed 13.2 percent of the votes in his congressional career, the fourth-worst record among current House members. Gutierrez has missed 11.6 percent of votes, which ranks him as the seventh-least-frequent voter in the House."

Here's the coup de grace:

"Rush and Gutierrez, both Democrats who entered Congress in 1993, turned down interview requests from the Tribune, leaving the explanations to their staffs."

Maybe they were busy at a get-out-the-vote rally.

Heh-heh. I was quite proud of that one.

Bonus Danny Davis Item
As for Davis, well, it's not the first he's consorted with bad company.

-

On Spying: Obama vs. Obama
The previous Obama wouldn't have stood for what the current Obama is doing.

Sway Does Chicago
It's Chicago Week in Sway's Universe, with an all-star cast talking beefs, Chief Keef, violence, growing up on the low end and collaborating with the likes of Diplo and Kanye West.

Fantasy Fix: Football Draft Guide Pt. 1 | The Top 20
Two Bears make the list.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Fantastical.



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Posted on August 7, 2013


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