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Lives in late mayor's Bridgeport home, might one day head machine

Originally published June 1, 2008

Back in early 2006, the Chicago Children’s Museum needed a lawyer who could help with a sensitive plan — moving the museum to Grant Park.

The call went to Patrick Daley Thompson. He’s a partner at DLA Piper, one of the city’s elite law firms for developers. He’s also Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew.

“He’s a great lawyer. You would want him on your team,” said Jim Law, a former city official who is now the museum’s vice president.

For more than a year, Thompson worked on the museum plan, leading community meetings, trying to win support from downtown residents.

But few people knew he was working for the museum until September, when he quit so the project wouldn’t “be delayed or eroded by a tangential issue” — his relationship to the mayor.

Thompson’s uncle strongly backs the museum’s plan to leave Navy Pier for a new building in Grant Park. He has blasted neighborhood critics as racists who don’t want minority kids in the park. Opponents, including Chicago’s newspapers, argue the museum would violate the long-held tenet to keep the lakefront “forever open, clear and free” of buildings.

Thompson declined to comment.

His boss, Ted Novak, gave a brief assessment of the mayor’s nephew: “He’s on my team. He’s a very valuable member.”

The museum is still a client of Thompon’s law firm, which also represents the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee.

Since stepping away from the museum, Thompson has registered as a lobbyist so he can contact city officials on behalf of eight clients, including Centrum Properties, 24/Seven Outdoor billboards, the John Buck Co. and McHugh Construction. McHugh has gotten more than $30 million in city contracts since 2005. He handles “land use and zoning” issues for his clients, city records show.

And City Hall has hired Thompson’s law firm, paying DLA Piper $185,000 last year for negotiations with ComEd.

One of the few Daleys who still lives in the old family neighborhood, Thompson, 38, is raising his family in one of Chicago’s most famous homes — the Bridgeport bungalow built by his grandparents, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and his wife, Eleanor “Sis” Daley. Thompson paid $415,000 for the brick home a few months after his grandmother died.

Thompson is also active in his grandfather’s political operation — the 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization run by his uncle John Daley, a Cook County commissioner. Some predict Thompson will one day run the organization.

An avid hunter, Thompson is chairman of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. He has been on the council for about a decade, helping pass a state law that requires criminal-background checks on anyone buying a firearm at a gun show.

“Patrick is very passionate about protecting our community from gun violence,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), the council’s former executive director.

Thompson and his cousins have raised money for Kotowski, who says Thompson can have a bright political future.

“He’s been carrying the legacy very positively, as well as establishing himself as his own person,” the senator said.