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EDITORIAL: Another twist in the Chicago Way game of clout

Victor Reyes

Victor Reyes | Sun-Times 2003 file photo

The next time somebody asks you to recommend a good zoning lawyer, aldermen, refer them to Craig’s List.

OK, maybe not Craig’s List. We don’t suppose that’s the best way to find a lawyer.

EDITORIAL

But we do know that your current practice — steering business to politically powerful lawyers who might, at minimum, shoot you back a campaign contribution — is exactly the sort of cozy Chicago Way politics that our city is so very tired of. It’s a breeding ground for public corruption.

In a 2015 phone call secretly recorded by the FBI, a Chicago lawyer with deep political connections, Victor Reyes, noted that four aldermen — George Cardenas (12th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Rick Munoz (22nd) — all had referred business to him. But Reyes griped that the person he was talking to on the phone, Ald. Danny Solis, who was asking Reyes to help him raise campaign money, had sent him no business at all.

The quid pro quo was obvious and, on the face of it, not transparently objectionable: You send clients to me, and I’ll raise money for you. As Moreno told Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman — who broke this exclusive story on Monday —  it’s not unlike recommending a good plumber or electrician.

Except for this. Aldermen have the power to make life miserable for people doing business in Chicago. They can block zoning changes and delay construction permits and throw up all kinds of objections about parking and traffic and hours of operation.

Business people know enough to want to stay on an alderman’s good side, which can make a recommendation look like an order.

This is not hypothetical. This is the real Chicago, as revealed by the Sun-Times in an earlier exclusive story just last week.

In that report, we learned how Solis may have dragged his heels in helping a hotel developer obtain a needed zoning change until the developer met with Solis’ tax lawyer pal — Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — and agreed to throw some tax law work Madigan’s way.

And four weeks ago, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) was charged in federal court with shaking down a local business, a Burger King restaurant, by creating delays on construction permits and the like until the business agreed to hire his law firm to do tax work.

Nobody is recommending plumbers.

Everybody’s trading in clout.

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