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No answers from Cheri Bustos

In the 1992 movie "Distinguished Gentleman," Eddie Murphy plays a con artist who fools the voters into making him a congressman – which puts him in Washington "because that's where the money is."

Murphy's character finds that the nation's capital is a bonanza in fundraising.

Of course, the movie exaggerates the situation, but there is truth to it.

In moments of candor, congressmen and senators – usually when they're close to retiring – lament how much time they spend raising funds for their campaigns.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, who is in her first term, is facing a real challenge in the 2014 election. Her likely opponent is the incumbent she beat last year – Bobby Schilling, R-Colona.

As with many congressmen, Bustos, who represents Whiteside County, is reluctant to talk about how she is raising money for her campaign. She has nearly a half million in her coffers.

When Schilling announced his plans to run again in July, Bustos issued a statement saying that she was focused on creating jobs and protecting Social Security and Medicare, not an election more than a year away.

At that point, I started wondering how much time she was putting into her campaign.

Last week, she toured Astec Mobile Screens. At the end, she took questions from a radio reporter and me.

I focused on her fundraising.

Answers, though, were hard to come by.

I asked about how many fundraising calls she made a week. She said she didn't know and wouldn't give an estimate, but she was quick to describe her activities with the folks back home.

I then inquired about where she gets her call lists of potential donors. She wouldn't answer.

Finally, I asked about her fundraising events. She wouldn't answer.

"My family has given me money. My former boss has given me money," she said.

That sounds great. Who can object to such donations?

But it's also true that she gets plenty of money from others, including big-city attorneys, Washington lobbyists and powerful interest groups.

By no means is Bustos alone. Just about every congressman relies on big money. And, like her, they're reluctant to talk about it.

Cheri, as a former reporter yourself, you likely understand why we're trying to get you past talking points. We'd like a little straight talk about fundraising, which we haven't heard so far.

A little candor could go a long way. Don't your constituents deserve to know about the Washington fundraising game?

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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