Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez recently referred to President Trump as a “con artist” on CNN’s “State of the Union”program. Gutierrez’s comments were in reference to allegations that the President Trump asked former FBI director James Comey to halt a federal investigation into then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
“[The President] knew exactly what he was doing,” Gutierrez said. “I know a con artist when I see one, and I saw a con artist that day.”
The twelve-term Democratic congressman has a history of trying to garner media attention. In March, Gutierrez participated in a sit-in at an ICE office to protest the Trump administration’s deportation policies, and was briefly placed in plastic restraints before the officers decided not to arrest him. “They threatened us with arrest. We said ‘We’re ready to go to jail,'” said Gutierrez. “We stood up to the bullies here…Unfortunately, tonight and tomorrow they will continue to prey on very vulnerable, defenseless people in their homes in the darkness of the night.” Gutierrez was previously arrested in 2010 while protesting an Arizona immigration measure, SB 1070.
Gutierrez’s outspoken positions on immigration are often the source of controversy. Following the widely publicized 2015 murder of Kate Steinle by Francisco Sanchez, a five-time deportee and career criminal, Gutierrez remarked “Every time a little thing like this happens, they use the most extreme example to say that [sanctuary cities] ought to be eliminated.”
This activism has an appeal in certain circles, but may provide a nice cover for Gutierrez’ real priorities. According to a report by The Washington Free Beacon, nearly half of all contributions to Gutierrez’s campaign have been paid to his wife since 2010. Soraida Gutierrez, was previously a registered lobbyist, has been paid a total of $385,000 from her husband’s campaign in the last six years. Gutierrez’s daughters have previously received a total of $4,870 from their father’s campaign. Campaign payments to candidates’ spouses and relatives for work done on the campaign, while controversial, are not illegal.
Gutierrez’s daughter, Omaira Figueroa, purchased a discounted condo for $155,000 in June of 2008 under an affordable-housing program. She later sold the condo for a profit of nearly $85,000 six months later. Under Chicago city rules, residents who purchased homes affordable-housing programs were not permitted to sell their homes at a major profit. However, this specific housing initiative was not subject to that restriction.
At the time, a Gutierrez’s spokesman told NLPC “[Figueroa] qualified under the program…no rules were violated, anything like that. If the program was poorly constructed, that was a different issue.” Figueroa and her husband, who purchased the condo using a $140,000 loan from the congressman, earned a combined salary of $93,828 at the time of purchase, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The congressman was embroiled in yet another real estate controversy when he lobbied to approve a controversial real estate project overseen by Chicago developer Calvin Boender. Gutierrez wrote a letter asking Mayor Richard Daley to approve the project after receiving a $200,000 loan from Boender. Boender, who since been convicted for bribing a Chicago city alderman, donated $41,000 to Gutierrez’s election campaign in 2008.
In 2014 Gutierrez’s office was reviewed by the House Ethics Committee for payments totaling $500,000 to The Scofield Company, which employed the congressman’s former Chief-of-Staff turned lobbyist, Doug Scofield, as a senior partner. While Scofield was a lobbyist, his firm took public money to train staff and draft press releases for Gutierrez’s office. A week after the first major news story on the case, Gutierrez’s office terminated the contract with Scofield, and maintained that neither the congressman nor the company had done anything wrong. After a three-month review, the House Ethics Committee decided not to pursue a full investigation.
Jamie Gregora is NLPC’s Washington Reporter.