"Retiring" Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who presides over one of the single most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the country, will receive a staggering $62,000-per-year pension thanks to his quarter-century term in national office, the Chicago Tribune announced this morning.
But the number pales in comparison to wealth Gutierrez and his wife acquired while in office. The pair were revealed, back in July, to have enriched themselves to the tune of nearly half a million dollars on the backs of campaign donors — and it's possible Gutierrez is resigning to avoid further inquiry on the matter.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, Gutierrez's wife Soriada joined his Congressional campaign back in 2010, and has operated as Luis' office manager, treasurer, and chief fundraiser, collecting hundreds of thousands in payments and reimbursements from her husband's campaign.
FEC documents reveal that in Gutierrez's last campaign alone, Soriada racked up more than $100,000 in compensation and was Gutierrez's highest paid employee. The pair's daughters also earned some extra cash working for the campaign as book-keepers and on fundraising projects.
If it sounds fishy, that's because it is. Members of Congress are allowed to put their families on their payroll, but only because another Illinois Congressman, former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., asked the Congressional ethics committee to issue a finding on the matter in 2001. Jackson, of course, went on to funnel millions in campaign funds to his wife's consulting firm. They were both convicted for using that money for personal endeavors — including a large fur collection — back in 2013.
Gutierrez's sudden departure leaves open the question of whether he was looking at an internal ethics inquiry, or even a federal inquiry into his spending habits — and, based on what the Free Beacon discovered, that's certainly a possibility.
But some believe Gutierrez has more nefarious reasons for departing office early. Gutierrez is a longtime ally of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is looking at a tough re-election bid next year. As Gutierrez announced his retirement, he also announced his hand-picked successor, avowed socialist Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, one of Rahm Emanuel's most frightening challengers.
Gutierrez made his speech with just six days left to file a petition to run for his seat, cutting off the possibility of an open primary and shutting everyone but Garcia out of the race. Garcia insisted that there was no "quid pro quo," but the pair had to do a lot of convincing that they were no longer at odds, particularly in light of the last mayoral election.
Chicago politicos speculate that perhaps a deal was struck somewhere in the higher echelons of the Chicago Democratic machine to rid the mayoral campaign of an Emanuel opponent while helping Gutierrez avoid further investigation into his campaign spending.
Chicago politics, perhaps, at its best.