Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday accused his revamped Board of Ethics of turning “average citizens” into lobbyists in its haste to shed its weakling image.
Emanuel finally weighed in on the lobbying controversy two weeks after the Board of Ethics accused his close friend and heavy contributor Jim Abrams as well as the husband of Ald. Sophia King (4th) of lobbying the mayor through his private emails but failing to register as lobbyists.
“In the interest of reform, we have lost our perspective . . . We cannot collapse a lobbyist and a citizen — and that’s what’s happened,” the mayor said.
“We know what a lobbyist is. They get paid to represent a particular interest, then have a financial interest in the outcome. A citizen expressing their views to their elected democratic officials is doing exactly what you want in a representative form of government. There has to be a clarity that doesn’t change our . . . commitment to reform while acknowledging that people have a right to speak to their elected officials.”
The mayor then joked about what happened recently around his own kitchen table.
“Amy [the mayor’s wife] was saying something to me and [daughter] Ilana says, ‘You’d better not, Mom. You’re gonna have to register as a lobbyist,’ “ Emanuel said.
Earlier this week, Inspector General Joe Ferguson argued that the definition of a lobbyist established by the reinvigorated Board of Ethics is the “broadest in the country” and would include “mom and pop grocery stores” asking the local alderman about street repairs.
Emanuel agrees with the inspector general whose new four-year term was approved by the City Council Wednesday.
But the mayor strongly disagrees with Ferguson on the need for Emanuel to honor his January promise to seek federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department to restore public trust shattered b the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
“I said we’re gonna work with the Justice Department. I said that on Jan. 13. [But] there’s a different Justice Department that has walked away from doing consent decrees. You can see that in Baltimore. You can see it in the comments the attorney general [Jeff Sessions] has made,” the mayor said. “The Justice Department under Jeff Sessions walked away from a consent decree. . . . We did not walk away from our commitment to reform.”
Ferguson’s stand was a blow to the mayor for two reasons.
The inspector general co-chaired the mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability whose report was a prelude to the DOJ’s scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department.
And Ferguson has an ongoing role in police reform having just hired Laura Kunard to serve as the city’s $137,052-a-year deputy inspector general for public safety.