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City Hall lobbyist Filan wearing one hat too many: Dan Mihalopoulos

William Filan

William Filan

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Updated: November 8, 2013 6:08AM

As the weather cools, we have many reminders that wearing two hats remains fashionable for all seasons at City Hall.

There’s the chairman of the city’s election board — one of the people who determined that the current mayor was eligible to run for the office — who has reaped millions of dollars as a City Hall lobbyist and lawyer for city government.

Then there’s the head of the City Council’s finance committee, with his long list of law clients who do business with the city.

While many of the public-private endeavors of election-board boss Langdon Neal and Ald. Edward Burke (14th) are well-known, veteran lobbyist William Filan quietly has done some deft and lucrative hat-swapping of his own.

He not only lobbies city officials on behalf of clients who have interests at City Hall but also has a contract to lobby for City Hall in Springfield.

Filan’s feat is a unique twofer in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

He’s one of two lobbyists the Emanuel administration has hired to help push its agenda in Springfield. But the other, William Luking, doesn’t lobby city officials on behalf of other clients.

Filan, once an aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), has been both a lobbyist for City Hall and a lobbyist for those trying to get something out of City Hall for years, since Richard M. Daley was mayor. The city has paid Filan nearly $1.15 million since 2002 and continues to employ him at a rate of $7,000 a month, under a deal Emanuel signed last year.

That became especially worthy of note recently because, even as Filan was providing “legislative consulting services” for Emanuel’s administration, he also was being paid by a private consortium bidding for what would have been the biggest deal any Chicago mayor has ever awarded.

Filan signed a contract earlier this year to lobby for two companies that joined forces to win the right to operate Midway Airport — and reap any profits from that for decades.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Filan’s clients submitted a bid of roughly $2 billion and were close to winning what would have been the biggest privatization deal in the history of the city.

Within hours of the initial report, Emanuel aides said the sole rival to Filan’s clients had pulled out of the Midway bidding and that it was better to nix the airport privatization plans altogether.

The Midway deal wasn’t the first time a Filan client had seen its fortunes rise or fall on City Hall’s decisions. Another Filan client, the scandal-scarred Redflex Traffic Systems, has been the city’s red-light camera contractor.

Filan didn’t reply to requests to discuss how he manages to switch between his two hats.

Asked about that situation, Emanuel’s spokeswoman replied with a statement that didn’t mention Filan, saying the mayor has an “established record of enhancing transparency, accountability and ethics standards in city government . . . There are no exceptions.”

As long as Filan is lobbying both for City Hall and for those who want to do business with it, Emanuel won’t dispel the notion that Filan’s clients enjoy an unfair advantage because of the other hat their lobbyist wears.

If Emanuel really wants to make his City Hall a place where everyone knows that what you know matters more than who you know, the mayor could tell Filan to decide which hat to wear and put the other back in the closet.


Twitter: @dmihalopoulos

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