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

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.”