Luis Gutierrez, who has been Illinois’ 4th District representative for 25 years, has decided to retire at the end of his current term.
While it will mean the end of his Congressional career, it will also mean the end of a steady salary for his wife.
In 2016, Gutierrez raised $525,090 for his reelection campaign. In 2018, he raised only $117,730, and contributions dropped completely following his retirement announcement in Nov. 2017.
He spent $560,429 on his 2016 reelection campaign, where he ran unopposed in the general election. In 2018, he has only spent $258,884 according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings.
Most of Gutierrez’s money in the 2016 was spent on advertising, messaging and consulting groups. These groups got more than $270,000 of Gutierrez’s funds in 2016.
However, over $135,890 alone was paid to Soraida Gutierrez, Gutierrez’s wife, during the 2016 campaign.
During the 2018 cycle, Soraida Gutierrez has been the biggest recipient of money from his campaign, receiving $73,000 as of the most recent FEC records. She was paid $6,000 for each of the first 10 months of 2017, until Mr. Gutierrez made his retirement announcement. Since then, she has been receiving $2,000 each month.
The FEC did look into Soraida Gutierrez’s role as treasurer for her husband’s campaign.
Soraida Gutierrez, a former lobbyist in the state of Illinois from 2003 to 2009, has been his office manager, fundraiser and treasurer for the past eight years.
In total, she has received has at least $400,000 from the campaign coffers since 2010.
Federal election records in the 2016 campaign cycle also appear to show that Gutierrez paid his wife twice for the same services during a single month. In March and July of 2016, she was paid $5,000 twice, with the memo description next to the amount repeating the same services Soraida Gutierrez provided.
It’s unclear if this is an error.
Gutierrez, who is Puerto Rican, has said after retirement he will go to Puerto Rico to help rebuild following the destruction Hurricane Maria caused to the island.
The Federal Election Commission began an investigation in March 2015, looking into whether Soraida Gutierrez violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.
The act, and its following amendments, had the purpose of promoting fair practices in election campaigns by elected officials.
However on March 15, 2016, the FEC declared “there is no reason to believe the (Soraida Gutierrez) violated” federal law in her campaign role for Gutierrez’s reelection.
Campaign laws are somewhat vague about paying family members, but federal officials allow the pay if they believe legitimate work is being done.
In 2001, at the request of then-Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois’ 2nd District, the FEC said in an advisory opinion that the practice of paying family members for campaigns was okay, as long as they perform “bona fide” campaign services.
Luis Gutierrez’s office could not be reached for comment for this story.
Dick Simpson, professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois-Chicago and former alderman, said that decision was wrong.
“It was a mistaken opinion and shouldn’t have been issued,” he said.
He explained that the decision has allowed for corruption to grow in campaign finance, with more Congressmen enlisting family members for their campaigns and enriching their families.
Ironically, Jesse Jackson Jr. was later sent to federal prison for using campaign funds for personal use.
Although not running again, Gutierrez also spent over $2,000 on meals during the 2016 campaign. He spent $321 dollars from his campaign chest buying food from the Corner Bakery, $403 on a high-end D.C. Greek restaurant called Kellari Taverna, and $364 on an expensive Chinese restaurant in Chicago.
The FEC records do not show if he bought these meals for himself, what were the meals for and what, if any, potential stakeholders were there with him.
This current election cycle also show that Gutierrez gave $25,000 to the campaign of his daughter, Jessica Gutierrez, who is currently running for alderman of Chicago’s 30th Ward in Chicago northwest side.
Luis Gutierrez also has been investigated by a House Ethics committee involving payments in the 2000’s to his former chief of staff’s communications consultancy. In March of 2018, he ordered to pay a $9,700 fine to the Treasury for the “inadvertent” misuse of funds.
However, news about Gutierrez’s reprimand and payments to his wife from his campaign chest has been sparse.
Scott Althaus, Director of the Cline Center of Advanced Social Research and media politics expert, said the problem with the media covering campaign finance is that there is no public interest in the topic.
This is because of the complicated nature of the FEC’s work, how the FEC enforces the law, and the minimal amount of transparency that campaign finance has.
Althaus said that this is normal, because the FEC board is comprised by stature of equal number Democrats and Republicans. By design, this leads to gridlock and ultimately no enforcement.
“There are few incentives to pursue many of these cases,” Althaus said.
During his reelection campaign in 2016, Gutierrez raised $525,090. Even before his retirement announcement, he had fallen behind fundraising in 2018, with only $117,730 in funds.
Gutierrez received money from a variety of sources, but banking, accounting services, and union PACs accounted for most contributions in 2016.
Some of his biggest contributions then was $17,901 dollars from PNC Bank, $6,000 from the AICPA and $5,000 from AON.
According to OpenSecrets.org, a non-profit tracking campaign money in U.S. politics, AICPA is an accounting agency and AON is an insurance agency.
From unions, he received $10,000 equally from the SEIU, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Gutierrez’s 4th district is home to many blue-collar workers, and these unions have always made a push to fund his campaigns according to FEC records from 2012 to 2018.
At the time of the 2016 election, Gutierrez was on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
During his reelection, he received $5,000 from the JStreetPac.
OpenSecrets’ database show that JStreet is one of the major pro-Israel lobbying groups in Congress; however, there is no indication that the contribution impacted his voting record.