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Labor leader cries foul over $250K to Garcia mayoral fund

Mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is in line for a $250,000 contribution from a union with close ties to anti-Rahm Emanuel community groups — but a top labor leader charged the contribution violates union rules.

The intramural union squabble comes as Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended his decision to raise another $400,000 from deep-pockets donors who had already contributed the maximum amount to his campaign after state caps were blown by a perennial candidate who opted not to run for mayor.

Also taking advantage of the new fund-raising rules, SEIU Healthcare — a union that also is allied with the Chicago Teachers Union — pledged to contribute $250,000 to Garcia’s campaign.

The contribution by a union that represents no city workers runs contrary to the SEIU State Council’s decision last week to remain neutral in the mayor’s race, union officials said.

 “SEIU Locals in Illinois took a formal vote last week at an Illinois State Council meeting to remain neutral in the Chicago’s mayoral race,” said Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Illinois State Council. 

“The subsequent contribution to a mayoral candidate by SEIU Health Care Illinois Indiana is in direct violation of that vote and the constitution and bylaws of the Illinois State Council. The violation will be addressed through SEIU’s official internal processes.”

A union source said “All locals are bound by” the vote.

“A decision to remain neutral means no local does anything,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. “No endorsements. No contributions. They obviously decided they weren’t going to respect the vote of the state council.”

Keith Kelleher, the president of SEIU Healthcare, is married to the former executive director of Action Now.

SEIU Healthcare officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Garcia said he expects to soon receive more money from labor groups here and nationally, including the transit workers’ unions, which already gave contributions.

“Obviously, we’re delighted to get this contribution,” Garcia said. “I have a long history of working for working-class folks.”

Asked about internal dissension among SEIU groups, Garcia said, “I don’t really get involved in that.”

He said polls he has seen suggest there is “a strong likelihood of a runoff, and I’m the strongest candidate out there to face Rahm.”

Despite accepting larger contributions than would normally be allowed, Garcia said the lifting of caps “undoubtedly” strengthens Emanuel more than him.

“Anyone as connected with investment bankers and the financial world can more easily attract the millionaires and billionaires,” Garcia said.

William Kelly’s $100,000 contribution to himself lifted state limits for all mayoral candidates of $5,300 for individuals, $10,500 for corporations and $52,600 for political action committees.

The fact that Kelly did not end up filing nominating petitions to run for mayor did not change the fact that the caps had already been blown.

A prolific fund-raiser with a $9 million war chest, Emanuel used that opening to his advantage.

He went back to three donors who had already maxed out and raked in another $400,000. Those over-the-top donations include: $100,000 from a construction and laborers PAC; $200,000 from a plumbers and pipe fitters PAC and $100,000 from a retired hedge fund manager.

Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, has pointed to Emanuel’s decision to go back to the well of deep-pockets donors as proof that the “Mayor 1%” label fits Emanuel.

Garcia claims Emanuel is trying to rebuild his sagging popularity with his slick campaign commercials and squelch a healthy debate.

On Tuesday, the mayor was asked why he needs to go back to the same heavy-hitters when he already has “17-or 18-times the amount of money” raised by his top two challengers.

“We have a big decision in the city of Chicago. Are we gonna go back to the policies that nearly brought us to financial ruin? Back to the policies where our kids had a stagnant graduation rate? Are we gonna go back to the policies that had half our kids not getting full-day kindergarten? Or are we gonna press forward with a set of ideas to make sure our community colleges are a ticket to the middle class? And next year, we’re gonna make sure that, if you get a `B’ average, community college is free,” he said.

The mayor added, “You’ve had your chance. I’m gonna have my chance to have my say.”

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, was asked whether the $9 million-and-counting that Emanuel has raised is an indication of how much trouble the mayor believes he’s in.

“The reverse is true. $9 million is a function of saying, `Here’s how many people are supportive of the ideas and direction of the city. You don’t get $9 million because you’re wrong. You get $9 million because you’re in the right direction and people are willing to invest in you,” the alderman said.

O’Connor sloughed off the “Mayor 1%” label, saying he’s “not sure that exists in reality” and certainly won’t now that the mayoral campaign is underway.

“Previously, the mayor was running against perfect. There was no candidate out there. There was nobody to compare him to,” O’Connor said.

“The mayor is now running against flesh-and-blood people with records, people with opinions. His poll numbers will continue to rise as they see stability and vision vs. basically obstructionism and little or no progress in the positions that they’ve held.”