Garcia rails against Emanuel’s ‘pay-to-play’ politics

SHARE Garcia rails against Emanuel’s ‘pay-to-play’ politics
SHARE Garcia rails against Emanuel’s ‘pay-to-play’ politics

Mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Tuesday stood outside the Loop headquarters of billionaire Ken Griffin’s hedge fund and railed against the “pay-to-play politics” of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As Garcia spoke, a campaign aide held up a show-and-tell poster entitled, “Pay-to-Play: How it pays to give to Rahm Emanuel,” who has raised a record $32 million for his two mayoral campaigns.

The poster cited examples of wealthy donors who’ve made hefty contributions to Emanuel and allegedly got something in return:

  • Griffin, who has contributed more than $1 million to the mayor and a pro-Emanuel super PAC. He was listed as a beneficiary of the $55 million tax increment financing subsidy that went to a Marriott Hotel. Citadel has invested some of its $26 billion of assets in Marriott over the years, but the hedge fund says those investments were unrelated to the city subsidy.
  • The Pritzker family, which donated $350,000 to Emanuel and got $5.2 million to help build the Hyde Park Hyatt Hotel.
  • AT&T, winner of a city telecommunications contract after donating $127,600 to Emanuel.
  • Victory Park Capital, which got city permits that allowed the pizza chain it owns to expand after donating $65,000 to the mayor.
  • Jimmy John’s got city permits after making a $26,000 contribution to Emanuel.
  • Willis Stein & Partners, which got $7 million in TIF funding for a Greektown store after donating $55,000 to the mayor.
  • Comcast, which gave Emanuel $52,000 and got the mayor to write a letter to the FCC supporting its merger with Time Warner Cable.

Also mentioned was the $135,000 in contributions to the mayor by United and American Airlines, which Garcia supporters tied to Emanuel’s decision to turn a deaf ear to noise-weary residents living near O’Hare Airport.

“We stand today in front of one of the businesses owned by one of the lead characters in the pay-to-play politics in the city of Chicago,” Garcia said.

William E. McNary, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois, added, “This is a contest between two competing visions: Whether we will continue this current, pay-to-play system of legalized bribery dressed up as campaign contributions or will we elect a new mayor [who] will work together for a Chicago where all of us can realize our dreams.”

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s campaign highlighted supporters of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and alleged benefits received. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Griffin’s Citadel took the demonstration in stride — and even distributed sandwiches to the assembled media as a goodwill gesture.

But, afterward, the hedge fund released a statement that accused Garcia of getting his facts wrong.

“Citadel does no business with the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois. If the false allegations of cronyism made by Commissioner Garcia represent his level of sophistication around fiscal matters or his management style, voters should be gravely concerned,” the statement said.

Garcia used the street corner news conference to reiterate his ethics platform. It includes regular town hall meetings; audits of TIF funds and city departments; a ban on campaign contributions from city employees, city contractors and managers of city pension funds; empowering the city’s Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the City Council, and finding a director for the Council’s independent budget office.

The $485,000-a-year independent budget office was created in October 2013 but has yet to get off the ground because of a stalemate over whether former Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) has the independence and expertise to lead the office.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, persuaded 35 aldermen to co-sign an ordinance shifting the power to investigate aldermen and their employees to Ferguson provided the IG is prohibited from launching investigations based on anonymous complaints.

But, the ordinance has been stalled for months amid opposition from two political powerhouses: Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) and Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th).

Garcia was asked what he would do if he encounters similar opposition. Would he push through a City Council reorganization that removes Austin and Burke from their powerful posts?

“I look forward to working with Ald. Burke and Ald. Austin as … we talk about how we render better services and accountability for the citizens of Chicago,” Garcia said.

“The fact that, on Feb. 24, people in Chicago voted for change, forced the mayor into the first runoff ever, and the fact that 19 City Council seats hang in the balance is sending a message to the mayor, to aldermen that Chicago is tired of business as usual. Results of the April 7th election will . . . create a new spirit of cooperation and of people wanting to embrace change and move the city forward in terms of how we operate within ethics.”

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