Blackhawks’ Wirtz is behind Vallas’ fundraising breakaway in mayor’s race
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Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz has been complaining for months about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to raise the city’s amusement tax on large venues to bankroll a break for small theaters.
Now, Wirtz is putting his money where his mouth is — by making $200,000 in campaign contributions to mayoral challenger Paul Vallas.
Vallas has been smiling and dialing for weeks in hopes of standing out from the crowded field of mayoral challengers when quarterly fundraising reports are due in two weeks.
On Monday, Vallas scored a mini-power play by recording $232,500 in contributions taken in over a five-day period ending on June 29.
The fundraising report stood out, not only for being the largest amount Vallas has reported since he launched his mayoral campaign. It also included some heavy-hitters.
They included $50,000 apiece from: Distillers Distributing Co.; Sauk Development and WSports Media LLC.
Vallas also reported receiving $25,000 contributions from 35L Sportsmans LLC and Fair Chance Farm, Inc.
All of those companies are owned by Wirtz, according to Dean Vallas, the candidate’s brother and campaign manager.
Vallas’ latest influx of money also includes $10,000 apiece from: John and Janet Koliopoulos and from Project 4011, Inc. Sam Vallas, a retired relative living in Orange City, Fla., kicked in $3,000.
The Blackhawks, Bulls and The United Center all joined the city’s other major sports teams last year in blasting Emanuel’s proposal to jack up the city’s amusement tax on large concerts while eliminating it for smaller venues.
“Chicago stands alone for many reasons that we can be proud of — but having the highest amusement taxes for fans attending sports and concerts in the United States should not be one of them,” they said at the time.
Under the restructuring, venues seating over 1,500 people were saddled with a nine percent ticket tax. The change didn’t affect ticket prices for sporting events, which are already stuck with a 9 percent tax, plus Cook County’s 3 percent amusement tax, but it did impact the concerts held at the teams’ stadiums.
Emanuel’s campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco refused to comment on the Wirtz contributions to Vallas.
Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot made her own splash last month — and planted her flag as a lead competitor — by raising $243,000 for her campaign right out of the gate.
She has reported $133,000 in contributions in June, $74,500 of it in a report filed Monday.
Lightfoot’s largest contribution was for $25,000 and came from Linda Friedman, an attorney at Stowell & Friedman. Lightfoot also reported another $5,000 contribution from former Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner, a partner at Mayer Brown, Lightfoot’s former law firm.
Although quarterly reports are not due until mid-July, embattled Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown has already filed hers. It shows that she raised $36,303 during the second quarter and spent $37,825.
That left her with just $2,571.64 in her campaign fund at the end of the reporting period.
Millionaire businessman Willie Wilson made three more contributions to himself in June. Two of them were for $50,000. The third was $40,000.
Fundraising limits for all mayoral candidates were lifted by Wilson’s $100,000 contribution to himself in April.
That freed Mayor Rahm Emanuel to tap a deep reservoir of high rollers.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that Emanuel dropped another $600,000 into his ballooning campaign warchest, leaving his campaign fund with roughly $8 million.
The fundraising drop was yet another sign of Emanuel’s determination to prove to his field of nine challengers — with County Commissioner Bridget Gainer considering becoming the tenth — that nobody will have more money than the embattled incumbent.
Still, Vallas has maintained that, when quarterly reports are due two weeks from now, they’ll show that he will have enough money to compete with Emanuel, whose fundraising Rolodex has long been the envy of Democrats across the nation.
“We’ve raised over $440,000 this quarter and have more than $430,000 in the bank, Vallas said Monday. “We did this in an environment where people and businesses have been intimidated by the Emanuel administration to not contribute, volunteer, or lend their name to any of his opponents.
“This is a Chicago mayoral race, and voters understand there are serious issues the city is facing. They will want to know who’s running and how they will lead, and not wait for television commercials to tell them who to vote for.
“We are very confident that we will have the resources and organization to communicate our message and qualifications to the voters.”
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On the day Vallas formally declared his candidacy, he attempted to exploit the likability factor that has dogged the two-term incumbent for decades.
“People don’t like the mayor. Sorry. They don’t like you. You’re a bully. You intimidate people,” Vallas said.
Vallas described himself as a bullying victim.
It happened after Vallas called to offer his help “for free” at CPS after then-CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was forced out because of the contract kickback scheme that would culminate in her conviction.
“I was told I didn’t pass the loyalty oath. … Who the hell are they to question my loyalty?” Vallas said on that day.
“That’s the attitude. That’s the D.C. way. It’s all about the next election. It’s all about loyalty. It’s all about fundraising. It’s all about intimidating quality people out of the race by flashing your fundraising potential. It’s all about pay-to-play.”