Magazine article Black Enterprise

Rushing to Judgement: Bobby Rush Has Traded His Activist Past for a Seat in Congress

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Rushing to Judgement: Bobby Rush Has Traded His Activist Past for a Seat in Congress

Article excerpt

Rep. Bobby Rush's (D-Ill.) public life is synonymous with battles for black Chicago's economic and political liberty. More than 20 years ago, he was a leader in the Windy City's local Black Panther Party. Since 1992, he has served the 1st Congressional District, which comprises parts of Chicago's South and West Sides and many of the city's poorest residents.

Rush sees no contradiction in moving from street activist to congressman. As early as the 1960s, he aspired to enter politics if the option ever presented itself. "I am consistent in working on behalf of [black] people, and my move into politics was gradual."

Rush was a city councilman for eight years before his initial congressional victory. Now Rush, 49, is courted by people who want to do more than fix potholes. As the only Illinois Democrat on the House Commerce Committee, Chicago area business lobbyists crowd his door daily.

The reasons are clear. This year the Commerce Committee will consider, among other things, utility deregulation and amendments to the Superfund. Rush also sits on the subcommittees on energy and power and on telecommunications and finance.

Rush's Panther past doesn't faze lobbyists like Rodney Smith, director of federal relations for Ameritech. "From our perspective, it is great to have an Illinoisan on the [telecommunications] committee. We are in a highly competitive business, and more than 2,000 of our employees live in his district."

Such supporters prompt Rush to believe that companies are primed to assist his district. …

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