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Emanuel schedules political fundraiser after crisis subsides

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a news conference in March. File Photo. Brian Jackson/ for the Sun-Times

Five months ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled his trip to a climate change conference in Paris and postponed a political fundraiser to devote his full attention to the crisis of confidence caused by his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Replenishing his depleted campaign war chest just didn’t seem right at a time when Emanuel was fending off demands for his resignation for keeping the video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager under wraps for more than a year and releasing it only after a judge ordered him to do so.

Now, the crisis of confidence has subsided. Emanuel has chosen a replacement for fired Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and proposed an initial round of police reforms as he waits for the U.S. Department of Justice to suggest more sweeping changes.

The mayor apparently feels comfortable enough to flex his legendary fundraising muscle once again.

Emanuel has scheduled a May 9 fundraiser — with a “suggested contribution” of $10,000 for corporations and $5,400 for individuals — at the Gold Coast home of Chicago developer Robert Wislow, chairman and CEO of CBRE-U.S. Equities Realty.

The 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. event is co-sponsored by Shawn Clark and Kevin McKenna, top executives at Clayco, a St.Louis-based construction firm that moved its headquarters to Chicago in 2013.

“I’m very supportive of the mayor. . . . I’m supportive of what he’s trying to do with the city. I have been through his whole administration. This was an opportunity to express my support,” said Wislow, whose company was recently awarded a five-year, $38.7 million contract to continue as property manager of the Harold Washington Library.

“He’s the right person to be in there. I can’t think of anybody else I would want to be leading the city through these tough times. That’s why I’m supporting him,” he said. “I don’t know anybody else I could imagine I would rather have in there trying to pull it back together and lead our city through these times.”

After spending a record $24 million to survive Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff, Emanuel is virtually out of campaign cash.

As of March 31, he had just $42,354 in his Chicago for Rahm Emanuel political fund. That’s even after quietly raising $173,850 in the last quarter of 2015, with help from his friends in business and labor.

Without holding a fundraiser, Emanuel still managed to rake in $53,900 apiece from the Plumbers Local 130, Laborers District Council, and the United Airlines PAC; $50,000 from the Carpenters PAC; and $25,000 from IBEW Local 134.

Emanuel originally put out the word about the political fundraiser last fall, the week before the City Council vote on his tax-laden city budget.

It was a shot across the bow to those who believe that his second term will be Emanuel’s last — either because he chooses not to seek re-election or because he is unelectable after socking it to Chicago taxpayers.

The Rahm-is-done drumbeat got louder after the Laquan McDonald shooting video was released in late November.

It got downright deafening on March 15, when political newcomer Kim Foxx breezed to victory over State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Alvarez had been under fire for waiting 14 months to charge Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke with the first-degree murder of Laquan McDonald. The charges were filed hours before the video was released.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, said Emanuel’s decision to resume his legendary political fundraising does not mean the mayor has decided to seek a third term.

It simply means that any mayor of Chicago needs campaign cash to push his legislative and political agenda and avoid the appearance of being a lame duck.

“I wouldn’t read anything into it. I don’t think it means anything that he’s having a fundraiser,” O’Connor said Thursday.

“Down the road, he’s got a personal decision to make long before voters ever make their decision. I honestly don’t know what he’ll do. I’m not denying that people perceive this guy is vulnerable. But vulnerable to what? There isn’t an election for three years. He’s not quitting. He’s not going anywhere.”

On the day after Alvarez went down in flames, Emanuel rejected the notion that the Foxx landslide could somehow be interpreted as a “referendum” on his own performance on the Laquan McDonald controversy.

But the mayor said he didn’t “need just an election to know” that he has a lot of work to do if he has any hope of winning back the support of African-American voters who elected him in 2011 and re-elected him in 2015, even after he closed a record 50 public schools.

“The voters were clear they want to see a change — not just in the sense of the prosecutor, but also at our police department, in our community relations and how we work together,” the mayor said on that day.

“It’s an unequivocal and unambiguous message to all of us that we have a lot of work to [do] in re-establishing trust between the public and the police department and trust in the criminal justice system in ensuring there’s a culture of accountability to live by and operate by a set of rules,” he said.