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Nation's immigrant champion faces questions back home

20100321 Gutierrez by Peter Holderness CROP
Rep. Luis Gutiƒ©rrez, D-Ill., has been making a national name for himself as a crusader for undocumented immigrants. But news reports back home could form an impression that Gutiƒ©rrez is just another Chicago politician -- a guy who makes questionable moves for his family and campaign treasury as he speaks for the downtrodden. The national attention on Gutiƒ©rrez tends to focus on his immigration work. In the last few days alone, CBS News's Face the Nation gave the congressman a platform to condemn Arizona's crackdown on residents who lack authorization to be in the United States, the New York Times was among at least a dozen national outlets that covered Gutiƒ©rrez's arrest Saturday in front of the White House, and Congressional Quarterly published the latest in a string of favorable profiles of the congressman. Here in Chicago, Gutiƒ©rrez's coverage is less flattering. Three critical stories appear in today's Chicago Sun-Times. First, the newspaper reveals a real-estate deal in which a Gutiƒ©rrez political protƒ©gƒ©e enabled the congressman's daughter to flip an "affordable" condominium for a handsome profit. A second story, based on records kept by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, suggests that Gutiƒ©rrez helped the daughter get a state job. A third story points out that Gutiƒ©rrez no longer lives in his congressional district. In all three, Gutiƒ©rrez denies wrongdoing. The Sun-Times barrage follows extensive Chicago Tribune coverage of Gutiƒ©rrez's ties to Calvin Boender, a businessman convicted in March of bribing a Chicago alderman. After Boender lent $200,000 to Gutiƒ©rrez, the congressman lobbied Mayor Richard Daley to support Boender's real estate project here on the city's West Side. Prosecutors have not accused Gutiƒ©rrez of wrongdoing. WBEZ last year revealed that Gutiƒ©rrez, who chairs a House panel on consumer credit, generated tens of thousands of campaign dollars from payday lenders. After the money flowed in, the congressman disappointed consumer advocates by softening his proposals to regulate the industry. Gutiƒ©rrez denied any connection between the donations and the proposals. In response to our questions, nevertheless, he vowed to quit accepting contributions from payday lenders.

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