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Rahm fattens war chest by $539K, with generous servings from restaurants, hotels

File Photos. Top row, left to right: Paul Vallas. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times; Lori Lightfoot, | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Mayor Rahm Emanuel, | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times. Bottom row: Dorothy Brown | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Garry McCarthy. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times; Willie Wilson. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s already fat campaign war chest swelled by another $539,919 on another fundraising Friday thanks, in part, to a parade of contributions from the restaurant and hospitality industries.

In early May, Rich Melman, founder of the Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You, contributed $150,000 to Emanuel.

The new filing includes $30,000 more from Melman children — Jerrod, Molly and Robert — who have taken over the restaurant empire their father built.

The $10,000 apiece from the Melman kids were among many contributions made by Chicago restaurants.

At a time when employees of 31 Chicago hotels have overwhelmingly authorized an Aug. 31 strike, Emanuel got a $10,000 contribution from the Illinois Hotel-Motel PAC that will make it difficult for him to side with those striking employees.

Other heavy-hitters include: Delaware-based East Coast Industrial Partners ($100,000); Jim S. Frank of Winnetka-based Wheels, Inc. ($67,500); $25,000 apiece from JRM Construction, Developer Robert Judelson and the Evanston-based University Public Issues Committee; and a combined $45,000 from three senior vice-presidents of Magellan Development.

The list also includes; $12,500 from INCS Action PAC; $10,000 apiece from former Exelon CEO John Rowe, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Sandz Development; $5,000 from attorney Terry Newman, a close friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and nearly $13,000 more from developer Dan McCaffery.

Earlier this month, mayoral challenger Garry McCarthy accused Emanuel of “pay-to-play politics for accepting a $35,000 contribution from McCaffery one day after the Chicago Plan Commission approved McCaffery’s master plan for the site of the CHA’s Harold Ickes Homes.

McCaffery said that contribution wasn’t pay-to-play politics and neither was the $66,000 he contributed to Emanuel four years ago after the mayor signed off on his plan to redevelop the old Children’s Memorial Hospital site in Lincoln Park.

“I’m happy to support the mayor. Look, you’re in the city. You want the city to work. You want people working hard to know that you appreciate they’re working hard. That’s all,” he said.

“I really take strong exception to any even a hint of that. It’s not me. I don’t do that.”

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.

Rich Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, celebrated 40 years in business at R.J. Grunts, 2056 N. Lincoln Park West in 2011. Melman, center, sat in a booth with (from left) son R.J., wife Martha, daughter Molly and son Jerrod. | Rich Hein
Rich Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, celebrated 40 years in business at R.J. Grunts, 2056 N. Lincoln Park West in 2011. Melman, center, sat in a booth with (from left) son R.J., wife Martha, daughter Molly and son Jerrod. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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.

Earlier this year, 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 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.

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.

Emanuel closed the books on second-quarter fundraising with $7.56 million in his campaign warchest. The money dump — on another fundraising Friday — brings the mayor’s total to nearly $8.1 million — more than all of his challengers combined.

Lori Lightfoot has raised nearly $32,000 since her quarterly report showed her with $458,903 left on June 30.

McCarthy closed the quarter with just $173,023 in the bank and added just over $31,000 since then.

Paul Vallas added just $6,000 since he closed the books on the second quarter with $435,207 in the bank.

Millionaire businessman Willie Wilson has added $52,000, $50,000 of it from himself, since his quarterly report showed him with just $54,494 in cash on hand.

He had previously made $231,906 in loans to himself and $61,840 in contributions, including $50,000 from himself.

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown raised $36,303 through June 30, spent $37,825 and closed the books on the second quarter with just $2,571 in the bank. She has since raised just $5,000.

While Emanuel continues to raise money at a frenzied pace and is positioning himself to run for re-election, he has not yet formally declared his candidacy for a third-term.

“Until someone says that they’re running there’s always a chance they may not,” David Axelrod, the mayor’s friend of 30 years, told the Chicago Sun-Times in late May.

“My counsel to him would be, there’s no rush on this. Take a gut check at the appropriate time and make sure this is what you want to do.”