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Emanuel super PAC gets $100K from Laborers union that backed Chico in 2011

The $2 million super PAC created to re-elect Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his City Council allies has received a $100,000 contribution from a Laborer’s union that endorsed Gery Chico in 2011.

The surprise contribution from the Laborers District Council of Chicago & Vicinity comes just days after Emanuel won the endorsement from the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, another union that was in Chico’s corner four years ago.

Like much of organized labor, the Laborers had an early confrontation with Emanuel over the mayor’s demand for work-rule changes to replace morale-killing furlough days. Labor leaders stood their ground, forcing layoffs.

But the strident tone of that early union standoff gave way to collaboration — on wellness, McCormick Place reforms and on managed competition between city employees and private contractors that has saved the city millions in household recycling costs and paved the way for a citywide expansion.

Laborers Local 1001, representing garbage-collection workers, also agreed to cut the pay of new hires and cross-train them so they can be moved around based on the city’s changing needs.

Laborers Local 1092 forged an agreement with the mayor that paved the way for an apprenticeship program for public-sector construction workers.

Both locals have benefitted from Emanuel’s plan to repair and replace 355 miles of streets and install 85 miles of water mains and 21 miles of sewer mains every year, bankrolled by the mayor’s plan to double water and sewer rates over four years.

Now, the close working relationship the Laborers have forged with Emanuel’s City Hall is helping to bankroll Chicago Forward, the super PAC created to re-elect the mayor and his City Council allies.

So far, Chicago Forward has targeted only two members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus: Aldermen Toni Foulkes (15th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).

But CEO Becky Carroll disclosed Monday that the super PAC was about to make its presence known in a host of other Chicago wards as well as in the mayor’s race.

“The records of Jesus Garcia and Bob Fioretti are relatively unknown to voters. Before they cast their votes for mayor, they should be informed,” Carroll said.

“Most voters are probably unaware that Garcia voted for the highest property tax hike in Chicago history [as an alderman] while taking an illegal homeowners exemption that totaled $8,500 over eight years. And Ald. Fioretti can’t account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions spent by his campaign, particularly in the 2007 race against Madeline Haithcock. He had to close down his campaign committee because it was in such a state of disarray.”

In response, Garcia’s campaign on Monday accused the Emanuel camp of likening an “administrative error” made by a government agency after a relative’s death to a crime.

“That’s dishonest and despicable. Mayor Emanuel is simply lying when he claims Commissioner Garcia cheated on his property taxes. In fact, the Cook County Assessor’s Office said that it was ‘implementing safeguards to correct such mistakes’ when the office learned that it had failed to remove the property tax exemption from the home of Garcia’s mother after she died,” the Garcia campaign said in a statement.

“Garcia never requested the exemption, and after his mother’s death, the property tax bills continued to go straight to her mortgage company. As soon as he was made aware of the error, he paid the taxes.”

At the time, Garcia already had an exemption for his Little Village home. Homeowners are entitled to only one homestead exemption — for their primary residence.

As for the property tax vote cast 30 years ago, the Garcia campaign said, “Jesus “Chuy” Garcia voted for a tax increase to save 11,000 jobs — including the jobs of 5,000 police officers. That tax increase, dollar for dollar, was roughly 1/10th the size of the $700 million in taxes fee increases that Rahm Emanuel has imposed on the residents of the City of Chicago. The Emanuel record is built on increases in taxes, fees and fines on cable television, cell phones, vehicle stickers and other targets.”

Fioretti acknowledged Monday that he made two mistakes during the 2007 campaign.

One was in violating his self-imposed pledge not to accept campaign contributions from developers doing business in the 2nd Ward. The other was in how he went about refunding that money.

“We had new people who were novices. We had some bad accounting. The campaign gave back tens of thousands, if not close to $100,000, to developers doing business in the ward. How we handled those refunds had some issues,” Fioretti said.

“We worked with the state board [of elections] and followed all of their recommendations,” he said. “I’m glad Becky is trying to raise all of these issues and divert from the bad policies that Rahm is doing.”

Fioretti’s problem — with both campaign cash shelled out to a “substantial number of field workers” without records and also with campaign contributions that were not reported to the state — were documented last fall by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Dan Mihalopoulos.

Mihalopoulos reported then that the magnitude of the errors was huge. After winning the election, Fioretti’s campaign had reported receiving about $356,000 in contributions and spending nearly $552,000 to unseat Haithcock.

Amended reports filed with the state indicated that the Fioretti 2007 campaign actually had raised and spent close to $1 million.

The situation was so bad that the original “Fioretti for Alderman” campaign committee was dissolved and a new fund called “Friends of Bob Fioretti” replaced it.