Lightfoot not bringing in much light on inaugural, transition fundraising

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Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot is asking corporate Chicago to dig deep to help bankroll her abbreviated transition and May 20 inauguration.

Lightfoot’s transition team is operating under the umbrella of “Better Together Chicago,” a not-for-profit corporation operating under Section 501(c) 4 of the Internal Revenue Code.

It is neither a “political fundraising committee,” nor a political committee as defined in the Illinois Election Code, according to a fundraising letter sent to Chicago’s movers-and-shakers.

Lightfoot transition spokesperson Anel Ruiz refused to say how many corporations were being solicited or why some companies were being asked for $25,000 while others were being asked to contribute $100,000.

Ruiz also refused to disclose the overall fundraising goal and the precautions being taken, if any, to avoid potential conflicts with companies either regulated or taxed by the city or holding city contracts.

She simply portrayed the fundraising as par for the course in Chicago.

“As they’ve done for past administrations, many partners from Chicago’s business community have voiced interest in helping with this historic inaugural celebration,” Ruiz said.

“We are appreciative of their support in ensuring all Chicagoans have an opportunity to participate in this civic milestone.”

Lightfoot last week chose the 10,387-seat Wintrust Arena as the site of her May 20 inauguration as Chicago’s 56th mayor.

The ceremony that includes swearing-in ceremonies for city Treasurer-elect Melissa Conyears-Ervin, Clerk Anna Valencia and Chicago’s 50 newly-elected aldermen will be held at 10:30 a.m. that morning.

After the inauguration, Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, will welcome members of the public to a 2 p.m. open house in the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall, just as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Mayors Richard M. Daley and Harold Washington did.

Ticketing and additional event details are expected to be announced in a few days.

Because of the April 2 runoff, Lightfoot is racing to put together a new administration in 48 fewer days than Emanuel had in 2011.

The solicitation letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times requested a $25,000 contribution by Wednesday.

“The purpose of this committee is to celebrate the election of Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s next Mayor and to assist her in the momentous task of transitioning to this office,” the letter states.

“It shall be tasked with hiring support staff, collecting information from the public and from institutions throughout Chicago, providing the mayor-elect with recommendations and hosting a citywide celebration of this historic election.”

The Sun-Times is not naming the company that provided the letter at the recipient’s request.

But, it states that, “Because of your great standing and dedication to the public good, we humbly request your assistance in this matter. The committee’s work is great and the time available to meet its needs is short. Therefore we request the donation…be made available by May 1. All contributions will be voluntarily disclosed by the committee.”

The letter was signed by Laurel Appell Lipkin, president of Better Together Chicago. Questions were referred to Christina Nowinski Wurst, who refused to comment.

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