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With caps lifted, Emanuel flexes fundraising muscle to tune of $1.6M

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Sun-Times files

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday flexed his legendary fundraising muscle, courtesy of Willie Wilson’s decision to lift the cap on campaign contributions for all candidates in Chicago’s crowded 2019 race for mayor.

Emanuel reported more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions — way more than the combined total raised by all of his challengers.

The big-bucks contributions came from business and labor in, what the mayor hopes will be viewed as a strong show of confidence in his financial stewardship and overall leadership of the city.

The big-ticket donors include: $500,000 from Michael Sacks, Emanuel’s chief fundraiser, close friend and business adviser and CEO of asset management firm GCM Grosvenor; $250,000 from LIUNA Chicago Laborers District Council; $250,000 from the Chicagoland Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC; $100,000 from the Willy Family LLC of billionaire businessman and Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkosky; $26,300 from AT&T Illinois Employee PAC and $25,000 from Henry Paulson, who served as treasury secretary under former President George W. Bush.

Also donating: Daniel Tierney and Stephen Schuler of Wicklow Capital ($200,000); Craig Duchossois ($100,000); Barry Malkin ($100,000); attorneys Robert Clifford ($50,000) and Sidney Herman ($25,000); former Labor Secretary Robert Rubin ($25,000); Ashley Netzky of William Blair and Co. ($25,000).

In January, Emanuel hammered out a new five-year contract with unions representing motor truck drivers, plumbers, laborers and members of the building trades that locks in labor peace with 21 percent of the city’s workforce.

Chicago taxpayers will save $12 million a year by 2021, thanks to health care reforms and increased employee contributions. But, it’ll still cost the city $12.5 million this year and $57.8 million in the fifth and final year of the agreement.

In part, that’s because it guarantees 52 percent of those 7,713 employees the prevailing wage paid to their counterparts in private industry.

Friday’s big money drop leaves Emanuel with $3.8 million in his campaign fund.

Emanuel survived Chicago’s first mayoral runoff after spending a record $24 million, four times more than County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a relative political unknown.

To win a third term — and overcome the political fall-out from his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, an avalanche of tax increases and violent crime – the mayor probably needs to set a new fundraising record.

But to raise money quickly in larger chunks, Emanuel needed somebody to to blow the fundraising caps limiting contributions to $5,600 from individuals, $11,100 from corporations, labor organizations and associations and $55,400 from candidate political committees and political action committees.

That’s what happened in 2015, courtesy of William Kelly, who threatened to challenge Emanuel, but never did.

On April 4, Wilson obliged. The millionaire businessman donated $100,000 to his own campaign, blowing the caps for all candidates in the race.

“I’m doing everything I can do to turn up the heat because he is the worst mayor this city has ever seen. There’s no compassion there,” Wilson said then.

With a legendary fundraising Rolodex filled with high-rollers, Wilson acknowledged that Emanuel had the most to gain from a race without caps.

But this time, he argued that big money would not save the mayor.

“…All the money he has ain’t gonna do him no good. He’s done so wrong for the citizens of Chicago…,” Wilson said.

If Emanuel’s legendary fundraising muscle was supposed to scare potential challengers, it isn’t showing in a race that’s getting more crowded by the day.

On Sunday, embattled Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown will join a crowded field that already includes: fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy; former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas; Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere; tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin; Wilson and community activist Ja’Maal Green.

Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and County Commissioner Bridget Gainer are also considering entering the race.

If Gainer enters the Feb. 26 race, she will have a leg up on the competition. She has $804,142 in her campaign fund, second only to Emanuel.

In early march, Emanuel raked in $112,500 in just one day, thanks, in large part, to two trade unions and heavyweights in the entertainment industry, where his brother, Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, wields huge influence.