Lori Lightfoot likes to use the word “cockroaches” to describe mayoral candidates who got religion on the subject of ethics reform in their haste to wash away the political stench from Ald. Edward Burke (14th).
“It’s like cockroaches — there’s a light that’s shined on them. They scramble. Initially, they’re silent. Then, they try to say, `Not me. Not me.’ Then, when they get caught, they finally stand up and do something. It’s a day late and a dollar short,” Lightfoot has said.
With the mayoral election less than three weeks away, Lightfoot is finally putting that analogy to work in her first television commercial of the campaign.
Not surprisingly, the commercial that will be the subject of an initial $280,000 ad-buy is titled, “Light.”
It opens in a dark room with a door cracked open as a headline reads, “Candidates try distancing from Ed Burke after corruption charges.” The camera then pans to an empty table of four as pictures of mayoral candidates Gery Chico, Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza and Bill Daley run above another headline: “All tied to Chicago machine.”
A finger flips the light switch and in walks Lightfoot, the former assistant U.S.-attorney and Police Board president who prosecuted corrupt aldermen and co-chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability.
According to Lightfoot, the commercial was filmed at the Palmer House Hilton in a room with an “escape exit” where Al Capone used to play poker; he could sneak out that secret door when his lookouts in the lobby told him the police were on their way up.
“Candidates try distancing themselves from Ed Burke. The truth is, they’re all tied to the same broken Chicago machine —except me,” Lightfoot says while standing in the same room, once dark and smoky, now basked in light.
“I’m Lori Lightfoot. I’ve prosecuted corrupt aldermen and held police accountable. Now, I’m running for mayor to finally make City Hall work for you, with an elected school board, making all neighborhoods safe, and reducing the unfair tax burden on working families. Shady backroom deals haven’t served us. It’s time to bring in the light.”
Mayoral candidates and re-election-seeking aldermen have been tripping over each other in a rush to condemn Burke and propose ethics reforms. Lightfoot was way ahead of them.
She targeted Burke for removal as Finance chairman even before the unprecedented Nov. 29 raid on his ward and City Hall offices. She also released an ethics plan that would prohibit aldermen from holding paid side jobs that conflict with the city’s interests.
She demanded Burke step down as chairman and give up his police bodyguards long before Burke was charged with attempted extortion for shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal work and a $10,000 campaign contribution for Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle raised $116,000 at a January 2018 fundraiser at Burke’s house and hired his son — after a personal appeal from the alderman — for a sensitive Homeland Security job at a time when Burke Jr. was under investigation for investigation for sexually inappropriate conversations at the sheriff’s office.
Mendoza considers Burke a political mentor, was married at the alderman’s house and would not have been elected state representative or city clerk without his help.
She’s also close to Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who wore a wire to help federal investigators build their corruption cases against Burke, and a protégé of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, with whom Solis arranged a meeting while the feds were listening. In that meeting, Madigan tried to get business for his law firm, specializing in property tax appeals, from a Chinese developer seeking to build a hotel in Chinatown.
On Wednesday, Lightfoot made the case against the other two members of the rivals she called the “Burke Four.”
She accused Bill Daley of brokering the 1989 deal that restored Burke to the Finance Committee chairmanship he held during Council Wars after Burke agreed to drop his plan to run for mayor against Richard M. Daley.
She noted that Chico got his start as a Finance Committee staffer during Council Wars.
“We have this opportunity to break from the corrupt and broken Chicago machine. We won’t get there by voting for one of the ‘Burke Four.’ We won’t get there by maintaining the status-quo. We’ll only gonna get there with a break from the past and I offer that break,” she said.
“All the things the ‘Burke Four’ are begrudgingly saying they agree with — these are all things they came to only after this red-hot spotlight shined on the level of corruption going on in our local government.”