Another week, another money drop by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Two weeks after dropping $1.6 million into his campaign war chest and one week after depositing another $866,100, the mayor reported $452,700 in contributions.
That leaves him with nearly $5.3 million, running circles around a field of mayoral challengers that seems to be getting more crowded by the day.
Still, the mayor has a long way to go to break the record $24.4 million he raised to survive Chicago’s first mayoral run-off in 2015.
With fundraising limits for all mayoral candidates lifted by millionaire businessman Willie Wilson’s $100,000 contribution to himself, Emanuel was once again free to tap into his deep reservoir of heavy-hitters.
The new filing includes $150,000 from Rich Melman, founder of the Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You.
Other major contributors this round include: philanthropist Anne Edwards ($125,000); Valor Equity executive Antonio Gracias ($50,000); Ilan Shalit, manager of Consolidated Trading ($50,000); private investors Justin and Hilarie Huscher ($25,000) and retired Commonwealth Edison Chairman John Rowe ($20,000).
By continuing his frenzied pace of fundraising, Emanuel may be hoping to intimidate his opponents. But so far, it isn’t working.
Last week, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas joined a crowded field that already includes: fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy; Chicago Principals and Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere; tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin; community activist Ja’Mal Green and embattled Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, who resigned Monday, and County Commissioner Bridget Gainer are also considering entering the race.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, was asked Monday to explain why mayoral challengers are not being scared off by the mayor’s prolific fundraising.
“There’s so much availability of free press these days. I mean — the media is dying to get into this election. So they’ll cover this thing from front to end,” O’Connor said.
“And quite honestly, even social media gives these people an opportunity to be everywhere for a very limited budget. It’s a different type of campaign.”
Does that mean the mayor’s fundraising advantage won’t save him this time? Not necessarily, O’Connor said.
“More money is helpful because you can tailor spots to tell people what you want them to [know] as opposed to letting the media interpret what they want to interpret. That’s very important,” O’Connor said.
But he added, “I would like to think, if the mayor is re-elected, he’ll be re-elected based on the decisions he’s made over the course of the last eight years and not because he has money.”
On the day he entered the race, Vallas made a disparaging reference to Emanuel’s fundraising muscle.
“That’s the attitude. That’s the D.C. way. It’s all about the next election. It’s all about loyalty. It’s all about fundraising. It’s all about intimidating quality people out of the race by flashing your fundraising potential. It’s all about pay-to-play,” Vallas said.
Members of the Melman family have been among Emanuel’s most reliable campaign contributors. Together, Melman family members have previously contributed $374,600 to the mayor’s campaign since 2010, records show.
The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that nearly $86,000 of that money was contributed less than a week after the City Council approved a new Midway Airport concessions deal that included three brands from Richard Melman’s Lettuce Entertain You empire.
Two months ago, Emanuel joined the Melman clan to announce that Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises was branching out onto the riverfront, as part of a $50 million building upgrade at 321 N. Clark.
The new development on the north side of the Chicago River calls for a building upgrade designed by the architectural firm Goettsch Partners for a property ownership team that includes Hines, Levy Family Partners, Diversified and American Realty Advisors.
The four-level entertainment space will be occupied by three separate venues owned and operated by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. A two-level seafood restaurant called “RPM on the Water” will occupy the building lobby and mezzanine. It’s expected to open next year.
A 300-seat private events space dedicated to parties, banquets, weddings and corporate events will occupy its own level. Yet another level will include a yet-to-be-named casual concept restaurant.
The new entertainment mecca will also include boat slips for those arriving by water.