Rahm Emanuel’s Got Friends in High, Right Places

By Emily Gray Brosious | Apr. 6, 2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia face off Tuesday night in a mayoral runoff election, the culmination of a six-week runoff campaign sparked by Emanuel’s failure to capture a majority vote on Feb. 24.

A clear divide in Chicago’s Democratic-party politics is on rare display in this election, with both candidates campaigning from different sides of the party agenda.

In the final weeks leading up to the April 7 runoff, both Democrats are receiving campaign contributions from a very different group of donors.

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Top donors to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign between Feb. 24 and March 18 included hedge fund manager and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin at $250,000, Madison Dearborn Partners CEO Paul Finnegan at $200,000 and Groupon CEO and Lightbank co-founder Eric Lefkofsky at $200,000, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Samuel Mencoff ($200,000), Samuel Zell ($150,000), Michael Sacks ($125,000), Cari Sacks ($125,000), John D. Arnold ($100,000), Laborers’ Political League Education Fund ($100,000), Barry Malkin ($100,000), Richard Melman ($100,000), Muneer Satter ($100,000), Bernard L. Schwartz ($100,000), Craig Duchossis ($100,000) and Donald Edwards ($100,000) were also among Emanuel’s top donors during this time.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s top donors during the same period included the American Federation of Teachers at $350,000, SEIU Healthcare at $318,169.89 and National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education at $144,000, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Other top contributors to Garcia’s campaign during this time included Service Employees Local No. 1 Political Education Committee ($100,000), International Transportation Trade Authority PAC ($50,000), Harold M. Baron ($25,000), Cook County College Teacher’s Union ($25,000) and Yusef D. Jackson ($25,000).

Since Feb. 24, the pro-Emanuel political action committee Chicago Forward, has raised $1,014,000, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Top donors to Chicago Forward include Ken Griffin at $500,000, Michael Sacks at $200,000, Cari Sacks at $200,000, James Abrams at $100,000 and Wendy Abrams at $100,000.

Emanuel’s top funders like Ken Griffin come from the traditionally Republican Right and like-minded financial, business communities, whereas Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s top funders come from the Democratic Left — unions and the like.

Emanuel is no doubt the powerhouse fundraiser between the two candidates, and Garcia’s campaign has criticized the mayor and his wealthy backers for perpetuating the “pay-to-play” problem in politics.

Nonetheless, finance records show neither candidate appears to be turning down donor funding in the lead up to this tighter-than-expected mayoral showdown.

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