Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Despite scandal, U.S. rep hopes to win

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the democrat who represents Evanston voters, does not expect any political backlash from her husband’s guilty plea to two charges of bank fraud in August, said Jon Samuels, Schakowsky’s deputy chief of staff.

Robert Creamer, 58, pleaded guilty Aug. 31 to checking-kiting and withholding federal income taxes as the head of two non-profit organizations in 1997. Thirty-two other charges were dropped in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Schakowsky, who will celebrate her 25th anniversary with Creamer this year, still plans to run for re-election and win in 2006, according to Samuels.

“The congresswoman is proud of the work he’s been doing – 40 years of consumer advocacy,” Samuels said. “Anyone who knows Bob knows he’s a great man. Jan has always received great support in Evanston and does not expect to see that lessen.”

As the former head of the Chicago-based public advocacy group Illinois Public Action Fund, Creamer said he kept the financially strained organization afloat by directing a check-kiting scheme.

Check-kiting involves depositing a check without enough money to pay the amount of the check. Writing several checks from bank to bank creates the illusion that an organization has more money than it really does. Despite owing debts of more than $1 million, the organization’s bank records showed sums between $11 and $24 million.

The organization paid the banks eventually, but the illusion of money meant it qualified for interest-free loans from the banks worth about $2.5 million. Creamer also admitted to taking part in two other check-kiting schemes.

Later in 1997, Creamer left the Illinois Public Action Fund and formed a political consulting company, Issue Dynamics, Inc. In the second charge, Creamer admitted to not paying $1,892 in taxes on his wages for Issue Dynamics in 1998. The money went to help pay off company debts, said Ted Poulos, Creamer’s attorney. The prosecution said the money went toward personal debts as well.

Poulos said the congresswoman’s husband committed the crime to keep the organizations afloat, not for personal reasons. The case called for leniency, he said.

“This is the most mitigated bank fraud case I’ve ever seen,” Poulos said. “Our goal right now is to convince the judge to choose a sentence with no form of confinement.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Ferguson said Creamer used the scheme for less altruistic purposes, such as maintaining a six-digit salary. He said the prosecution expects Creamer to receive 41 to 51 months in jail. Poulos disagrees.

“The notion that he did this to keep his salary going is absurd,” Poulos said. “He could have made three times what he was making at any time if he’d gone into the private sector.”

Whether or not Creamer was well-intentioned, Evanston residents such as Tom Jacob, 48, said Creamer and his wife should have known better.

Schakowsky either knew about the bank fraud or made an effort not to know, Jacob said. If she runs again, Schakowsky will not receive his vote.

“She was a great representative for the people,” said Jacob, who voted for Schakowsky in 2004. “But this is going to change a lot of things for a lot of people. I’ve run nonprofits and you don’t mess with that sort of stuff. They should have known that.”

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected]

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Despite scandal, U.S. rep hopes to win