clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lightfoot goes on fundraising flurry before caps lifted for mayoral race are reinstated

Among the big donations Lightfoot reported was $75,000 from former Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell and another $75,000 from Zell’s wife, Helen.

Former Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell (right) and his wife, Helen.
Former Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell (right) and the billionaire’s wife, Helen, (left) each contributed $75,000 to Mayor Lori Lightfoot before fundraising caps lifted for the mayoral race were put back in place on Monday.
Sun-Times files

Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed out June with a flurry of fundraisers that allowed her to accept contributions in big chunks before fundraising caps lifted for the mayoral race were put back in place.

Before the calendar flipped to July and caps were reinstated, Lightfoot received $100,000 from the SEIU Illinois State Council. That union was among the big donors to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who are now backing Lightfoot for, among other things, her support of a fair workweek ordinance and a $15 minimum wage.

Lightfoot also reported $75,000 donations from former Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell and another $75,000 from the billionaire’s wife, Helen.

Businessman Michael Sacks and his wife, Cari, each contributed $50,000. Sacks, one of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s biggest donors, is an investor in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Another of Emanuel’s most frequent donors, James Perry of Madison Dearborn Partners, also shelled out $50,000.

Lightfoot received another $50,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 Political Fund. The same amount also came from Craig Duchossois, CEO of the Duchossois Group.

The Duchossois family, along with Churchill Downs, operates Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights.

The family’s earlier $50,000 contribution to Lightfoot’s campaign was highlighted by the Chicago Sun-Times in a story last month about the mayor’s ties to the gambling industry—through her campaign contributors and clients to her former law firm — at a time when casino gambling and sports betting are set to explode across Illinois.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, contributed $60,000. Lightfoot reported $25,000 contributions each from the United Food and Commercial Workers union; the Carpenters Union; Judd Malkin of JMB Realty; Patrick Nash of Kirkland & Ellis LLP; and philanthropist Mary Jo Schuler.

Laura Ricketts, whose family owns the Cubs, made another $5,000 campaign contribution to Lightfoot. That’s on top of the $52,500 her politically divided family had previously given to the mayor.

The Cubs have signaled their intention to take advantage of a provision in the gambling expansion bill that allows Wrigley Field and other big sports stadiums to offer wagering on sporting events.

Laura Ricketts is a Cubs board member, prominent Democratic fundraiser and leader on gay and lesbian issues. She endorsed Susana Mendoza and co-chaired Mendoza’s mayoral campaign before making the switch after Lightfoot came seemingly out of nowhere to finish first in the first round of voting.

Lightfoot also reported another $10,000 contribution from John Canning, chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners. Canning had pumped $200,000 into Bill Daley’s mayoral campaign before contributing $100,000 to Lightfoot on May 8.

And the new mayor got $25,000 in contributions from top executives of Exelon, led by CEO Christopher Crane.

City Hall has just begun the exhaustive process of renegotiating Exelon’s soon-to-expire 20-year franchise agreement with the city and is eyeing a much shorter deal — perhaps five or 10 years, according to Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds.

The City Council’s six-member Socialist Caucus is demanding what Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) calls a “better deal” for Chicago consumers, including an end to shut-offs, lower electricity rates and more community hiring and community investment.

Caps on mayoral donations to all candidates were lifted last year when millionaire businessman Willie Wilson donated $100,000 to his own campaign.

On Monday, the caps were reinstated. That limits contributions to $5,600 from individuals, $11,100 from corporations, labor organizations and associations and $55,400 from candidate political committees and political action committees.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Lightfoot had already raised nearly $400,000 since her historic election.

The latest flurry of big-money contributions was reported in two spurts Tuesday and last Friday, adding at least $1.09 million to that total.

On Saturday, Lightfoot held her second fundraiser of the week at Carnivale, 702 W. Fulton. Tickets ranged from $250 for individuals to $2,500 for co-hosts and $5,000 for hosts.

Dave Mellet, Lightfoot’s full-time political director, said the mayor’s decision to keep fundraising and maintain a political office at 100 W. Kinzie St. staffed by two full-time employees is not at all surprising.

Emanuel never did it, only because his vast Rolodex and infamous fundraising muscle allowed him to raise vast sums of money on a dime.

“The campaign fund has paid the remainder of the expenses that we incurred, in the run-off election especially. And any money beyond that will be used to further the mayor’s agenda. Our goal is to help the mayor do what she needs to do to pass important legislation . . . and help move Chicago forward in the next few years,” Mellet said.

“I don’t know that she’ll necessarily maintain the same pace of activity throughout the remainder of her term. But when she went to New York and California, the political side paid for those trips. And it will help the mayor when she needs to reach out to people and ask for support on certain agenda items or wants people to be aware of what’s going on with legislation or things that need peoples’ voices involved in the process.”

During the first quarter of this year, which included her mayoral campaign, Lightfoot raised $4.6 million and spent $4.4 million. She closed the quarter with $397,480 in cash on hand.