According to a stunning exposé by the Chicago Tribune, it appears Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been engaging in a massive pay-to-play scheme.
Upon a review of more than 500 contributions made to the Chicago mayor of at least $5,000 since July 2015, the Tribune shows today that nearly 70% of them came from people who have received, or are seeking, lucrative contracts with City Hall.
[Note: It’s worth reminding people that Emanuel served in the Clinton White House, so this standard of behavior should not surprise anyone.]
As Mayor Rahm Emanuel ramps up his campaign fundraising toward a possible third term, he continues to rely on donors who have received City Hall benefits, ranging from contracts and zoning approvals to appointments and personal endorsements from the mayor, the Chicago Tribune has found.
With the February 2019 mayoral election still a year and a half away, Emanuel has collected $3.1 million in high-dollar contributions. And more than $2.1 million of it — nearly 70 percent — has come from 83 donors who have benefited from actions at City Hall.
Among the contributors: law firms seeking approval for their clients’ projects or lucrative bond business for themselves, developers needing City Hall permission to build here, an events promoter negotiating the financial details of a major music festival and restaurateurs wanting coveted space at Chicago’s airports.
So how does he do it?
Turns out there are plenty of examples which include the following ‘doozy’ in which Rahm raked in nearly $40,000 at a law firm fundraiser and then approved their zoning plans for a new McDonald’s facility the very next day.
For example, Emanuel has received blocks of campaign contributions from DLA Piper, one of the go-to firms for real estate developers to get zoning approval at City Hall. The firm’s zoning law practice was built up by David Reifman, a onetime zoning attorney who now holds substantial approval power over all new projects as the city’s commissioner of planning and development.
Emanuel’s fundraiser took place as DLA Piper zoning attorneys were lobbying City Hall to sign off on the new West Loop headquarters of McDonald’s Corp. The Emanuel administration approved the plans the day after the fundraiser.
And here’s another great example whereby Rahm hired the law firm of Schiff Hardin for the city’s $1.2 billion bond issue, an engagement on which they made over $200,000 btw, then strolled through their office just a couple months later for his kickback fundraiser.
Schiff Hardin is another firm whose lawyers have contributed to the mayor’s campaign and benefited from decisions made by the Emanuel administration.
The firm made at least $205,000 serving as co-counsel on the city’s January $1.2 billion bond issue, a massive borrowing plan to patch city debt, records show. About three months later, Emanuel attended a lunch at the firm’s offices on South Wacker Drive, another event labeled “non-city” on the mayor’s calendar. A week later, Emanuel’s campaign deposited $17,800 from 11 of the firm’s lawyers, records show.
Schiff Hardin partner Bruce Weisenthal said the mayor was invited to speak at the firm. He said Emanuel spoke for about an hour, giving an uplifting talk about the state of Chicago and where the city is going. “He was very generous with his time,” Weisenthal said.
That lunchtime event came after a fundraiser in 2013. That year, Schiff Hardin made $96,000 in fees from a $276 million city wastewater revenue bond project.
Three months later, Emanuel collected more than $16,000 from 13 Schiff Hardin lawyers at a campaign event.
There are dozens of other stories just like these — Chicago-style politics are very much at play in Chicago.