Rahm Emanuel has $5M in campaign fund 1.5 years before election

BY NATASHA KORECKI AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters

October 10, 2013 10:02PM

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Updated: November 12, 2013 6:34AM

In the face of a rancorous year at the city’s helm, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has hauled in nearly $1.4 million in larger campaign donations in the last three months — and with nearly a year and half before his re-election, he already has $5 million cash on hand.

Emanuel’s latest financial disclosures show he raised more than $1.1 million in contributions of $1,000 or more in the month of September alone — more than any of the five gubernatorial candidates who will face voters a year before the mayor does.

And he achieved that total even with cutting short an East Coast fund-raising trip short to tend to a mass shooting in the city.

John Kupper, the mayor’s longtime political strategist, said when official filings are due Oct. 15, Emanuel will report $5.13 million in cash on hand, reflecting $4.66 million in contributions since taking office.

The fall fund-raising frenzy tapped the same sources that bankrolled Emanuel the last time around: Hollywood types — Calvin Klein and Robert DeNiro are among them — with ties to his super-agent brother, Ari; the financial industry where Emanuel made his millions; big law firms; big business; and a smattering of unions, in spite of the mayor’s persistent problems with organized labor.

Since late June alone, $783,400 has poured in from organized labor, according to Emanuel’s campaign.

“It undermines the argument that some have made that he has a problem with labor,” Kupper told the Sun-Times Thursday. “The fact is, he has strong labor support. Does every one of the unions support him? No. But this fund-raising represents a very strong show of support.”

The mayor appears intent on sending a message to anyone who would dare to take him on: Don’t even think about it. Nobody will out-raise or out-spend him.

“I don’t know if it’s a frenzy. It’s just Rahm. I think you can chalk it up to a little intimidation factor,” said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University. “If you want to take Emanuel on in 2015, you better pack a lunch. It’s going to be a long day.”

No challengers have stepped forward as of yet, though some supporters have behind-the-scenes pushed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to do so. Preckwinkle has said she is running for re-election.

Green noted that Emanuel raised $14 million when he made his first run for mayor in 2011.

“He did it as a candidate, one can only imagine what he does as an incumbent,” Green said.

Emanuel regularly makes trips out of state to raise money. He’s kept up the pace even though the 2015 mayoral election is 16 months away and there is no challenger — formidable or otherwise — on the horizon.

“He takes nothing for granted. That’s how he operates. There’s always the possibility that a challenger will arise and he wants to be prepared…He’s trying to make sure he has the resources he would need in a serious campaign,” Kupper said. “It’s no secret that some of them [including the Chicago Teachers Union] are actually out trying to recruit candidates. When you take on entrenched interests, there’s always the possibility that you will have an opponent. If he doesn’t, then it stays in the warchest.”

Kupper said Emanuel has spent $1.3 million, much of it on strategy and polling. He refused to disclose results of the internal polling or whether it shows a dramatic decline in support from African-American voters, who helped put Emanuel in office on the strength of an endorsement from his former boss, President Barack Obama.

“The mayor remains in a strong position. Whether people agree or disagree with specific policies, the general consensus is that he’s working very hard and trying very hard to overcome the significant challenges the city is facing,” Kupper said. “We’re facing a huge crisis with future pension obligations. He’s going to address that in every way he can.”

Emanuel has faced nationwide attention — and criticism — for gang violence and the number of murders in the city, even though there has been a drop this year compared to last. He also locked in an intense battle with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, triggering a two-week strike last year. Earlier this year, he closed dozens of schools, enraging parents and having to enact a safety plan for some students who were forced to walk longer, dangerous routes.

Nearly $120,000 of the donations in the last period came from employees at investment giant Citadel or from the hedge fund manager Ken Griffin himself.

Some notable donors include Stephanie Cutter, a former campaign strategist for Obama, Unite Here, the CEO of A&E Television, Democratic fundraisers Lew and Susan Manilow who contributed $10,600.

The law firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP that employs former Mayor Richard M. Daley and Daley’s best friend Terry Newman was a big contributor. So was the law firm of Kirkland Ellis and the financial firms CTC, and Grosvenor Capital Management LP, whose CEO and chairman Michael Sacks is vice-chairman of World Business Chicago and Emanuel’s close friend and business adviser.

Stand for Children, an anti-union advocacy group that has backed the mayor’s controversial education agenda, gave $10,000.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his wife gave $10,400 and Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell and his wife gave $10,600.

Emanuel also got contributions from sports owners who either have or hope to benefit from the mayor’s decisions.

Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave $5,000. The Bulls’ plans to build a $95 million retail and entertainment complex adjacent to the United Center is contingent on nailing down a modified version of the property tax formula that has saved the Bulls and Hawks millions on property tax bills assessed against the United Center.

The tax break is due to expire in 2016. It includes a complex formula that ties United Center property taxes to stadium revenues, with a $1 million-a-year minimum. The United Center’s most recent property tax bill was $2.5 million.

Todd Ricketts, whose family owns the Cubs, gave $2,500 after Emanuel gave the Cubs the go-ahead to spend $500 million to renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it, bankrolled by more night games, two massive outfield signs and an infusion of signage outside the ballpark.

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