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BGA Public Eye: Top Dems among Alvarez's biggest backers

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. | Brian Jackson / Sun-Times file photo

Though Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has portrayed herself as independent of the political establishment, the Democrat now facing opposition from within her own party for reelection next year has gotten nearly $4 million in campaign contributions since the fall of 2007, Illinois State Board of Elections records show.

That includes sizable contributions from political power brokers including Ald. Ed Burke, head of the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee, who’s been among her biggest financial backers.

Burke and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Illinois, the state Democratic Party chairman, are among those supporting Alvarez in the March 15 primary election.

Alvarez has gotten $29,000 from the Friends of Edward M. Burke political fund between 2008 and 2014 and $24,000 from Burke’s Burnham Committee since early 2008, when she first ran for state’s attorney, campaign records show.

Alvarez began her career under Richard M. Daley in 1986 when the future mayor was Cook County state’s attorney. Her office recently settled out of court for $50,000 with Nanci Koschman, who claimed Alvarez was part of a decade-long conspiracy to keep Daley nephew Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko from being charged in the 2004 death of Koschman’s son, David Koschman.

Daley’s brother Michael Daley and his law firm have given Alvarez’s campaign $3,500, including a contribution in August.

Michael Daley didn’t return calls for comment. His law partner, Mara Georges, who was the chief City Hall attorney under Richard M. Daley, describes Alvarez as “a personal friend.”

Another Daley brother, William Daley, gave in-kind contributions of $2,382 in 2008 for a fund-raising reception but says he hasn’t decided which candidate he’ll support in the state’s attorney race.

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb — the court-appointed special prosecutor in the Koschman case whose investigation led to Vanecko’s guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter — gave Alvarez’s campaign $1,000 in a check logged by her campaign July 31. Webb says Alvarez gave a talk at his firm Winston & Strawn and that he felt it appropriate to contribute.

Other large financial supporters of Alvarez’s campaigns have included: Niranjan Shah, a one-time fund-raiser for now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich; former Daley administration official Gery Chico; and Ted Tetzlaff, an attorney and former McPier board chairman.

Chico, a Chicago Board of Education president under Daley, and his law firm gave more than $15,000 to Alvarez. Tetzlaff and his law office gave close to $3,000.

Alvarez’s predecessor as state’s attorney, Richard Devine, backed her successful first campaign in 2008, and his political committee Citizens for Richard A. Devine gave $44,800 to Alvarez from 2008 to 2013.

Devine — who initially supported another one of his former top prosecutors, Robert Milan, in 2008, until Alvarez beat Milan in the Democratic primary — says he hasn’t committed to any candidate in the coming state’s attorney’s race.

Daniel Gallagher, who has given Alvarez more than $13,000, mostly between late 2007 and mid-2012, was appointed by Alvarez as chief of her office’s civil actions bureau in early 2014.

Alvarez has gotten about $18,000 in contributions from 16 campaign contributors who identified themselves as state’s attorney’s employees, campaign records show.

That doesn’t include $3,000 given while in private practice by Daniel Kirk, now Alvarez’s first assistant state’s attorney, who is also her former chief of staff and ex-campaign chairman.

Alvarez’s biggest contributor has been her husband, Dr. James J. Gomez, who lent $640,000 to Alvarez’s campaign.

Plaintiff’s attorney Robert Clifford — the chairman of Alvarez’s campaign finance committee — has given a total of more than $345,000 to her campaigns, most of that in in-kind contributions. Attorneys from Clifford’s firm gave another $51,000.

Brett Chase, Patrick Rehkamp, Robert Herguth and Katie Drews of the Better Government Association wrote this story.