Garcia made inflated claim on past job, recording shows; Rahm pounces

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From new Rahm Emanuel attack ad on mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Asked earlier this week about an exaggeration in Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s official biography, an aide said it was the result of an innocent mistake made by a campaign volunteer for the mayoral challenger.

But during a conference call with supporters nationwide a little over two weeks ago, Garcia made the same exaggerated claim — that the Chicago community organization Enlace Chicago he formerly ran had a $5 million-a-year budget.

In fact, Enlace never had an annual budget of more than $2.9 million during the 11 years Garcia ran the group in his Little Village neighborhood, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaign moved to capitalize on that Thursday, releasing a new TV attack ad that quoted from Garcia’s conference call 16 days ago with progressive organizations backing his run.

“In 1999, I founded Enlace, a community group on Chicago’s Southwest Side, and became its executive director,” Garcia said, according to a recording of the conference call. “Within a few years, we grew our organization to 24 full-time employees, 120 part-time employees and a $5 million annual operating budget.”

A Garcia biography on the Cook County Board member’s mayoral campaign website had a nearly identical statement. The campaign rewrote that passage Tuesday afternoon, after the Sun-Times asked campaign aides about public records for Enlace that showed it wasn’t as big anoperation as Garcia claimed.

Also, state records show others — not Garcia — founded Enlace in 1990, though he was the group’s first executive director and opened its first office after losing a re-election run for the Illinois Senate in 1998.

The new Emanuel commercial repeats Garcia’s comments about Enlace from the conference call, then a narrator says, “$5 million? Not quite. The Sun-Times found Garcia exaggerated that number by 72 percent.”

The ad also noted that Enlace ran a deficit during the last two years before Garcia left in 2009 to run for the Cook County Board.

Garcia campaign manager Andrew Sharp responded: “The fact he is now being attacked for building a nonprofit charity organization is just another sign how desperate Rahm Emanuel has become.”

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