CITY HALL — Three aldermen, including one of the mayor's top election challengers, cried foul Tuesday over political contributions to Mayor Rahm Emanuel from firms managing the city's pension funds.
Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) announced Tuesday at City Hall that they've sent letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to the city's inspector general and the Board of Ethics seeking investigations into a reported $600,000 the mayor and his campaign committees have received from "individuals and organizations that manage the city's pension funds."
According to Fioretti, who is challenging the mayor in February's municipal election, state campaign disclosures show the mayor received $194,000 from executives at Madison Dearborn Partners alone from October 2010 through June 2013, with a maximum single donation of $50,000. The donations were first reported by the International Business Times.
The aldermen, who were joined by Ald. John Arena (45th) in calling for the probes, are also asking Comptroller Dan Widawsky to release the names and managers of all firms managing city pension funds so they can be checked against campaign disclosures.
"The public demands transparency when it comes to how their money is being managed and who is profiting off of public dollars," Fioretti said. "This is a blatant example of the pay-to-play contributions in our political system."
The mayor's political spokesman, Steve Mayberry, said it was anything but blatant.
"The donations are fully compliant with the law and the higher standards the mayor voluntarily imposes on himself per his executive order," he said. "In fact, since taking office Mayor Emanuel has strengthened city ethics and campaign finance rules, including mandating unprecedented restrictions on mayoral fundraising.
"What some seem to be overlooking is that a broad coalition of organized labor unions representing carpenters, painters, electricians, laborers, plumbers and others have contributed $1.5 million to the mayor’s campaign — two-and-a-half times the amount discussed in the [International Business Times] article," Mayberry added. "We continue to receive support from businesses and labor because they continue to see the investments we are making in roads, schools, public transportation and city services."
That didn't quiet the aldermen.
"Pay to play is wrong absolutely," Waguespack added. "Chicago has gone on too long in this fashion."
Waguespack said there was a "direct correlation" between the large sums the firms were making and the large political contributions. "That's what we're asking the SEC to look into."
"If they're making the contributions based on getting the business, that's what's wrong here," Fioretti said.
They demanded the mayor return the contested contributions to donators and, in Fioretti's words, "show that Chicago is not for sale."
Fioretti has announced he'll challenge Emanuel in February's municipal election, but he has not yet filed his petitions with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Earlier Tuesday, Fioretti said he'd amassed 50,000 signatures, far in excess of the 12,500 required, but that he did not file them on Monday's opening day for registration because he was honoring former Mayor Jane Byrne in attending her funeral. He has until 5 p.m. next Monday to file.
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