Moving The Needle

Separate investigations by the Better Government Association with CBS2 and the Chicago Sun-Times – on U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and Chicago ambulances – are seeing results, helping with transparency and public safety.

Two recent public-interest investigations involving the Better Government Association – and media partners CBS2 and the Chicago Sun-Times – appear to be getting results.

The investigation with CBS2 centered on Chicago's alarming ambulance shortage – which City Hall finally acknowledged this week by agreeing to hire more paramedics and put more trauma-ready ambulances on the streets.

If you don't see the video above, click here and watch it on CBS2.

The investigation with the Sun-Times focused on U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who the newspaper revealed this week is under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics – apparently prompted by the BGA/Sun-Times report.

The two-day series this past December in the Sun-Times focused on a series of questionable financial activities with Rush's campaign fund and charitable groups he's affiliated with. Among other things, the BGA found one of Rush's charities got a $1 million grant from telecommunications giant SBC to build a community tech center – but the money was spent and the facility was never built. The BGA also found that Rush appeared to be paying little or no rent for his campaign office – and was not reporting the perk as required.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is a non-partisan agency tasked with "reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the United States House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics."

There, sanctions are possible.

BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw released the following statement in reaction to the news about Rush:

"We're encouraged that the Office of Congressional Ethics is apparently looking at Congressman Rush's conduct, as detailed in the BGA series with the Sun-Times. We raised a lot of serious questions about how Rush handled his personal and political finances – and we hope congressional regulators, and perhaps other investigators, can find answers that the Congressman, to date, has been unwilling or unable to adequately provide."

Among those questions:

  • What happened to the $1 million donated by SBC, and why was the tech center never built?
  • How did Rush end up with a rent-free campaign operation?
  • What campaign work did Rush's wife perform to justify her salary with Rush's political operation?
  • Why did Rush's charities accept lucrative donations from telecommunication and energy companies that wanted his help in Congress?

To read the BGA/Sun-Times coverage on Rush, click here.

To read about Chicago's ambulance shortage, and coverage by the BGA and CBS2, visit the following links:

Union Agreement Calls For More Ambulances, Paramedics

Fire Suppression

An Alarming Trend

Braking Bad

City Ambulances on Life Support?

Fire Department Prescribes Investigation into Expired Medications

City Ambulance Confusion Delays Treatment for Wounded Man

The CBS2/BGA ambulance stories prompted a call by two aldermen for an investigation and hearings in recent days. That pressure appears to have played a big role in City Hall proposing a contract Wednesday with the union representing firefighters and paramedics. The deal called for the hiring of 200 more paramedics, and the conversion of 15 non-trauma ambulances into trauma-ready vehicles.

"We’re disappointed the city took so long to act, and ignored numerous stories about this important subject before doing something, but we’re hopeful that the changes proposed by the city will improve emergency response times – and therefore public safety – for residents needing medical attention," Shaw said.

To contact the Better Government Association, call (312) 386-9201 or email prehkamp@bettergov.org.