Rahm Emanuel is up to his old tricks. David Sirota explains
On its face, Chicago’s municipal pension system is an integral part of the Chicago city government. The system is included in the city’s budget, it is directly funded by the city and its board of trustees includes city officials and mayoral appointees. Yet when it comes to enforcing the city’s anti-corruption laws, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is now arguing that the pension funds are not part of the city government at all.
The counterintuitive declaration came this week from the mayor-appointed ethics commission, responding to Chicago aldermen’s request for an investigation of campaign contributions to Emanuel from the financial industry. The request followed disclosures that executives at firms managing Chicago pension money have made more than $600,000 worth of donations to Emanuel. The contributions flowed to the mayor despite a city ordinance -- and an executive order by Emanuel himself -- restricting mayoral campaign contributions from city contractors.
Brushing off the lawmakers’ complaint about Emanuel’s donations from the financial industry, the mayor’s ethics commission issued a nonbinding legal opinion this week arguing that Chicago's pension systems are “not agencies or departments of the city, and thus firms that contract with them are not doing or seeking to do business with the city.” The commission said its interpretation means financial firms’ business with Chicago pension funds should be considered exempt from city ethics laws.
With the aldermen’s complaint about campaign contributions generating headlines and potentially complicating Emanuel’s already tough race for re-election in two months, the Emanuel-appointed commission was unusually frank about its motives: It said the release of its opinion was designed “to attempt to ensure that no ethical clouds are hanging over any candidate’s head.”
It's par for the course for a mayor who would rename the city he heads "Chicago Inc." if he could find a wealthy enough investor willing to purchase renaming rights. The chart, accompanying a recent article by Rick Perlstein, below demonstrates the depth and breadth of Emanuel's effort to sell off city services to the highest, or not highest, bidder:
You may notice three items- custodial maintenance of Chicago public schools, private charter schools, and "Social Impact Bonds" for CPS- pertaining to education. Brazen disregard for students, hostility to teachers, and aversion to transparency have escalated in the administration of the mayor who has closed more public schools than any any mayor in American history (save New Orleans, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina). Given his policies, it is no surprise that Emanuel is rolling in the dough from big contributors and is expected to win re-election on February 24 despite his unpopularity. Also given that likelihood, and his enthusiasm for selling off the city to private interests, it is no surprise that
President Barack Obama endorsed Mayor Rahm Emanuel for re-election in a radio ad that began airing Monday in Chicago, laughing off Emanuel's "hardheaded" demeanor as proof of his passion and speaking in favor of the mayor's school policies that have become key points of controversy in the election campaign.
"If you want a mayor who does what's right, not just what's popular, who fights night and day for the city we love, then I hope you'll join me. Vote for Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, February 24th," Obama says in the 60-second spot.
It's too bad Barack Obama probably won't return to live in Chicago once his second term ends, because these guys deserve each other. There is, however, one redeeming characteristic of the Emanuel campaign: it is not "we are the ones we've been waiting for."