"I've been here 21 years and it's time for somebody to take my place. Simple as that," Mayor Daley said of his decision to leave office.
Under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, City Hall paid millions of dollars in legal fees to Katten Muchin Rosenman, the law firm where Daley now works.
But under Daley’s successor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the firm has seen its City Hall business fall sharply, records show.
Last year, Chicago taxpayers paid Katten Muchin $139,964 — the lowest amount the firm has been paid by City Hall in more than 16 years.
Katten’s City Hall business has fallen even as the firm’s attorneys have contributed $44,300 to Emanuel’s campaign fund, including $17,000 last September.
Emanuel administration officials won’t talk about Katten’s decline in legal work since Daley left office.
City Hall paid Katten more than $6.9 million between 1998 and the day Daley left office in 2011, averaging more than $500,000 a year in legal fees for work that included helping to finance construction projects at O’Hare Airport and negotiating leases with companies to oversee parking meters and other city assets.
Under Emanuel, Katten has been paid an average of $400,000 a year. And much of that has been for legal fees incurred under Daley.
Twelve days before Daley left office, Katten made $257,755 in legal fees by helping City Hall issue $1.05 billion in bonds to renovate O’Hare.
Katten’s biggest yearly tab was in 2009, when Daley’s administration paid the law firm more than $1.3 million. That included $662,760 for helping City Hall reach a 99-year deal to lease the city’s parking meters to a private company and $196,000 for helping the city issue bonds to build libraries and other projects.
While Daley was mayor, Katten also did legal work for other agencies under Daley’s control: the Chicago Board of Education, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Park District.
And during Daley’s reign, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority — whose board members are selected by the mayor and the governor — chose Katten to help borrow $125 million by issuing bonds. The money will help finance a new area for DePaul University and rehabilitate Navy Pier, which is now run on McPier’s behalf by a not-for-profit board that includes Nora Daley, the former mayor’s daughter.
McPier paid Katten $504,000, including $232,000 after Daley left office.
Daley has had a long relationship with Katten Muchin, particularly with one of the firm’s partners, Terry Newman. Daley and Newman have been friends and regular dinner companions for two decades, and Newman remains in the former mayor’s inner circle.
A month after Daley left office, he joined Katten Muchin “as ‘Of Counsel’ to the firm, where he draws on his vast knowledge, experience and relationships globally to contribute to the continued growth of the firm,” according to Katten’s website.
The law firm also hired Daley’s former City Hall press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, and deputy press secretary, Jodi Kawada.
Asked about Katten’s drop in business at City Hall, Heard said in a written statement:
“Katten’s public finance practice is doing very well as the firm works with municipalities nationwide. The firm has worked with the city of Chicago since the days of Mayors Byrne, Washington and Sawyer, all of whom often called on Katten for legal counsel. The former mayor does not lobby for government business — city, county or state.”