On Monday, disturbing audio of a conversation between staff at a district office of Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and a constituent was released to the press. The constituent was asking the House staffer about an issue in Rockford and Peoria, Illinois cities which are partly represented by Rep. Bustos. The staffer described Rockford as “very urban” and “very underprivileged.” She said constituents there spent their time “more in jail than church.”
The following is a transcript of the conversation:
Constituent: But the other areas, like Rockford or Peoria or those areas?”
Bustos’ Office: “You know, I don’t spend a lot of time in those areas. I don’t think–I’ve never heard anything in Rockford. You’ve gotta understand, the part of Rockford we have, though–”
Constituent: “Is pretty rural? Or, pretty, no, urban, isn’t it?”
Bustos’ Office: “Very, very urban, very poor, very underprivileged. Not people that, um, spend a lot of time in church [laughter]. More in jail [laughter] than church.”
The audio recording was released by the Bobby Schilling for Congress campaign. Schilling is challenging Bustos for her congressional seat on November 4th. The Schilling campaign also released this statement, “Before they vote, voters need to know how their Representative thinks of them. This recording is particularly revealing and Cheri Bustos has a lot to answer for.”
“The views stated on the recording are a window into a cynical operation that does not respect the people she serves. The people of Rockford deserve an apology,” the campaign said.
According to the Schilling campaign, this conversation was recorded last winter in one of Rep. Bustos’ district offices. These offices are not part of the campaign operation and are funded by government appropriation. The staff member in the recording, then, would be a Congressional employee and not a campaign volunteer.
The race between Schilling and Bustos is expected to be close. Schilling represented much of the district in Congress from 2011-2013. Cheris Bustos defeated him in the newly drawn 17th District in 2012.