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Familiar faces behind Latino group supporting Emanuel

When he returned to Chicago to run for mayor, one of the first things Rahm Emanuel did was to make Juan Rangel his campaign co-chairman.

Once elected, Emanuel gave his enthusiastic support to Rangel’s United Neighborhood Organization and its taxpayer-supported charter-school network.

Four years later — after a contracting scandal ended Rangel’s long reign as UNO’s chief executive — the mayor is running for re-election and looking for new allies in Chicago’s growing Latino community.

OPINION

On Feb. 12, the Chicago Latino Public Affairs Committee — “supported by business owners and business advocates” — is holding a rally for the mayor and City Council candidates it has endorsed in the Feb. 24 election.

A spokesman for the mayor’s campaign said Tuesday he did not know whether Rangel has any involvement in the group, called CLPAC.

Either way, take a close look at who’s behind CLPAC and you find a long list of those closest to Rangel during his heyday as arguably the most influential figure in Latino politics in Chicago

The president of the group is Homero Tristan, and the treasurer is Tristan’s law partner, Pedro Cervantes. Cervantes was the registered agent for UNO and its charter network until a few months after the contracting scandal broke in 2013.

Rangel had organized protests in 2009 when Tristan was forced from then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s cabinet under pressure from City Hall’s inspector general. Inspector General David Hoffman had accused Tristan, who was Daley’s top human resources official, of lying to investigators who were looking into political hiring abuses.

The bonds between the Tristan & Cervantes firm and Rangel remained intact, even as the contracting scandal brought heat on UNO and Rangel from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In October, Rangel started a new company, Mastery Consulting LLC. Cervantes is the new firm’s registered agent, state records show.

Besides the rally next month, CLPAC already gave $5,000 to Emanuel’s re-election campaign in October.

Last year, it gave to a variety of candidates across the state and reported raising a total of nearly $101,000. Of that, $8,500 was contributed by two executives of D’Escoto Inc., including the company’s president, former UNO board member Federico “Fred” d’Escoto.

D’Escoto Inc. oversaw construction of new UNO schools until the Chicago Sun-Times reported d’Escoto and another major contractor on those state-funded projects were owned by the brothers of Rangel’s right-hand man at UNO.

Within days of those reports, Emanuel distanced himself from Rangel.

Rangel had been Emanuel’s tour guide in Pilsen in the fall of 2010, on the first day after the former White House chief of staff returned to Chicago to launch a “listening tour” ahead of his mayoral campaign’s formal launch.

As mayor, Emanuel was keynote speaker for a fund-raising gala UNO held in the Great Hall of Union Station. The UNO charter network continued to grow — and to get greater funding from the Chicago Public Schools — while Rangel backed Emanuel during the Chicago Teachers Union strike in 2012.

Last June, UNO and its charter schools settled a civil case filed by the SEC accusing them of defrauding bond investors by failing to disclose the insider deals with the d’Escoto brothers.

On the business card he’s been passing around for his new company, Rangel is listed as president of Mastery Consulting, providing “strategy/planning/public affairs” services from his home in Little Village.

Rangel and Tristan did not return calls or respond to e-mails Tuesday.

Emanuel spent part of last weekend in the 10th Ward, at the city’s southeastern edge, where he got a boost from another old Rangel friend: Matt Sanchez, the son of former Daley Streets and San boss Al Sanchez.

The younger Sanchez had worked for UNO’s lobbyists while his father served a federal prison term for patronage hiring fraud on behalf of members of the pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization.

On Facebook, Matt Sanchez posted a photo of Emanuel standing next to him as he spoke and wrote, “Had the pleasure of helping to introduce Mayor Emanuel to the 10th Ward community!”

The post was followed by two hash tags: “#LatinosforRahm #CLPAC.”

So the torch is passed — from HDO to UNO and now to CLPAC. The letters change, but there’s always someone willing to serve whoever is mayor.