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The Watchdogs: How the mayoral hopefuls manage their own money

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Gery Chico’s income in 2005? Negative $165,996. Chico, though, has since righted his financial ship. He owns four homes — two of which he bought for more than $2 million apiece in 2009.

Rahm Emanuel made millions as an investment banker, invested it and owns two houses.

Chico, a lawyer, and Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, are the richest of the six candidates running for Chicago mayor, an examination of their tax returns and public records shows.

A third high-profile candidate, small-business owner Carol Moseley Braun, has been struggling financially as she tries to sell her home for $1.9 million. A fourth, Miguel del Valle, has had a steady income from his job as Chicago city clerk and lives in a modest bungalow.

The financial pictures for the other two candidates for mayor — Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William “Dock” Walls III — aren’t as clear.

Watkins, a community activist, declined to answer questions about why she lives in a house that’s owned by a church whose leader is heavily bankrolling her mayoral run. Also, she has donated sizable chunks of her income to one or more charities that she declined to identify.

Walls, who sells clothes on the Internet, says he pays rent to live in his mother-in-law’s bungalow.

Here’s a look at five years’ worth of tax information for five of the mayoral candidates — all but Walls, who refused to release his tax returns — as well as other details about their finances:


Small-business owner struggling financially

Works for: Self-employed. Owns 80 percent of Ambassador Organics, a coffee, tea and spice company she launched in 2005. The former U.S. senator, ambassador and federal prosecutor also does public speaking, consulting and legal work and is on the board of directors for MWH Global, an engineering firm, and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance.

Marital status: Single

Lives in: A five-bedroom Hyde Park row house she bought for $1.7 million in December 2006. She put the house up for sale in March 2010. Asking price: $1.9 million.

Other property: Says she has “life tenancy” to her family’s 365-acre farm in Union Springs, Ala. That’s a form of ownership that allows her to use the farm as long as she is alive.

From Braun’s tax returns:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Adjusted gross income: $15,561 -$225,908 -$139,578 -$163,807 $169,833

Federal income taxes paid: $0 $0 $0 $0 $27,331

Other federal taxes paid: $785 $2,509 $0 $6,461 $3,253

Charitable contributions: $884 $4,200 $230 $2,500 $8,575

Real estate taxes paid: $0 $11,839 $10,194 $0 $4,483

Mortgage interest paid: $43,202 $53,066 $51,124 $20,155 $34,862

† Braun has said her negative incomes in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and sub-$20,000 income in 2009 stemmed from losses from her food company, which is still in business.

† Braun didn’t pay real estate taxes on her home in 2009 but is now up-to-date on those payments. In 2006, she says she was between homes and didn’t have to pay real estate taxes.

† East Lake Management — owned by one of Braun’s top campaign fund-raisers, Elzie Higginbottom — paid her $80,000 in 2005 to do legal and consulting work. She also made $75,163 in public-speaking fees that year.

† In 2004 — the year in which Braun abandoned her campaign for president — she reported getting $307,991 in income by giving speeches, and doing legal and consulting work, according to documents in a personal-injury lawsuit she filed after a February 2005 car crash. The case was settled, she says.


Back in the money after former law firm’s break-up

Works for: The law firm of Chico & Nunes, in which he has a 67 percent ownership stake.

Marital status: Married. Files jointly with his second wife, Sunny P. Chico, an education consultant.

Lives in: A 22nd-floor downtown condo the Chicos bought for $2.35 million in January 2009.

Other homes: Three

♦ A 5,821-square-foot house with a swimming pool next to a golf course in Scottsdale, Ariz., which the Chicos bought for $2.4 million in May 2009.

♦ A two-story, four-bedroom home in Beverly Shores, Ind., valued at $865,000 in 2005.

♦ A three-story, 4,216-square-foot house on the near West Side, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, that the Chicos are renting out. Gery Chico paid $879,000 for it in September 2001.

From the Chicos’ tax returns:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Adjusted gross income: $2,672,417 $2,947,545 $1,207,307 $1,158,143 -$165,996

Federal income taxes paid: $831,601 $910,441 $315,317 $322,360 $0

Other federal taxes paid: $157 $3,497 $22,035 $23,159 $42,451

Charitable contributions: $95,676 $110,688 $116,581 $37,390 $26,006

Real estate taxes paid: $6,319 $27,598 $17,844 $20,022 $16,429

Mortgage interest paid: $41,261 $58,131 $72,902 $59,518 $20,930

† The Chicos’ negative income in 2005 stems from Gery Chico paying down a $1.2 million debt tied to the dissolution of his former law firm, Altheimer & Gray. His wife’s consulting business took in $554,000 that year.

† Since 2006, Gery Chico has been his family’s main breadwinner. He reported gross wages of $1.1 million from Chico & Nunes in 2006, $1 million in 2007, nearly $3 million in 2008 and nearly $2.8 million in 2009.

† From 2006 to 2009, the Chicos deducted a total of $471,666 in alimony paid to Gery’s first wife, Jeryl Chico. This money included support for Gery and Jeryl Chico’s three daughters, who are now 26, 23 and 19.

† Gery Chico is to pay Jeryl Chico $100,000 a year through May 2017 under a divorce settlement that Gery and Jeryl Chico provided.

† Since 2005, Gery and Sunny Chico have given $386,341 to charity — the most of any mayoral-candidate family. In 2009, the couple’s donations included $56,280 to a charitable account overseen by Gery Chico and his law partner, Marcus Nunes, with money from that account passed on to groups including the Governors State University Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Child’s Play Touring Theatre and Chicago Urban League. The Chicos personal charitable gifts in 2009 included $5,000 to the Vatican Observatory Foundation and $1,170 to the University of Illinois Foundation.


Steady income for career elected official

Works for: The City of Chicago, as city clerk. Also a former Illinois state senator.

Marital status: Married. Files jointly with his wife, Lupe, a homemaker.

Lives in: A 1,514-square-foot bungalow in Belmont-Cragin that the del Valles bought for $130,000 in 1993.

Other homes: NoneFrom the del Valles’ tax returns:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Adjusted gross income: $113,884 $113,440 $115,862 $70,272 $65,354

Federal income taxes paid: $13,365 $15,194 $14,891 $3,091 $4,033

Other federal taxes paid: $0 $0 $0 $130 $0

Charitable contributions: $2,790 $2,760 $2,755 $1,625 $1,620

Real estate taxes paid: $3,251 $2,007 $2,563 $2,099 $2,060

Mortgage interest paid: $4,230 $4,849 $5,432 $5,974 $6,481

† Del Valle’s income increased 65 percent when he left the Illinois Senate in late 2006 and was appointed city clerk by Mayor Daley.


Lucrative investment-banking career preceded congressional run

Works for: Running full-time for mayor after leaving his job as President Obama’s chief of staff. Also a former congressman, investment banker and senior adviser to President Clinton.

Marital status: Married. Files jointly with his wife, Amy Rule, a homemaker.

Lives in: A near Northwest Side condo he’s renting for $1,500 a month. His wife and three school-age children live in a rented home in Washington, D.C., and plan to move back to Chicago this summer.

Homes the Emanuels own: Two

† A two-story, 116-year-old single-family home in Ravenswood the Emanuels bought for $695,000 in December 1998. Emanuel tried to move back into this 2,719-square-foot house last year, but his tenant — onetime mayoral hopeful Rob Halpin — refused to break the lease.

† A two-story home in Union Pier, Mich., the Emanuels bought for about $675,000 in 2003.

From the Emanuels’ tax returns:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Adjusted gross income: $227,784 $227,097 $505,893 $547,323 $402,393

Federal income taxes paid: $30,251 $28,950 $95,085 $83,843 $61,799

Other federal taxes paid: $1,529 $6,480 $5,079 $6,178 $7,109

Charitable contributions: $10,250 $7,500 $20,000 $34,000 $34,000

Real estate taxes paid: $13,502 $29,909 $20,358 $19,154 $21,803

Mortgage interest paid: $22,463 $22,901 $11,607 $23,707 $24,079

† Emanuel made more than $18 million with the investment-banking firm Wasserstein Perella & Co. between the time he left President Clinton’s administration in late 1998 and was sworn in as a congressman in January 2003, the New York Times reported in 2008. Wasserstein Perella has since been sold.

† Emanuel has invested his income from his banking career in several investment funds, some of which are held in the “Rahm Emanuel Blind Trust,” managed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Emanuel reported $57,946 in “ordinary dividends” from that trust in 2009.

† Emanuel and his wife have made $105,750 in charitable contributions in the past five years, including sizable donations to the “Rahm Emanuel & Amy Rule Family Foundation,” a nonprofit the couple created in 2002.


Questions about her home, charitable contributions

Works for: Former executive director of Target Area Development Corp., a nonprofit community organization she founded in 1995. She resigned to run for mayor.

Marital status: Single.

Lives in: A two-story, 3,883-square-foot single-family home in East Garfield Park. Records show the house is owned by Ambassadors for Christ church, whose pastor, the Rev. Joseph L. Stanford, has contributed $296,444 to Watkins’ mayoral campaign. Watkins declined to answer questions about the home. Stanford didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Homes Watkins owns: One

† A two-story home in Three Rivers, Mich., in St. Joseph County. This house’s real estate tax bill gets mailed to Stanford.

From Watkins’ tax returns:

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Adjusted gross income: $65,000 $63,750 $53,148 $38,856 $52,319

Federal income taxes paid: $3,201 $3,105 $855 $0 $866

Other federal taxes paid: $0 $0 $0 $0 $0

Charitable contributions: $32,660 $38,560 $36,800 $31,000 $22,800

Real estate taxes paid: $335 $322 $316 $304 $292

Mortgage interest paid: $2,936 $2,992 $3,045 $2,835 $3,415

† Since 2006, Watkins has donated more than half of her adjusted gross income to charity. She did not provide documents to show where those contributions went and declined to answer questions about them. She also declined to discuss her relationship with Stanford.


Perennial candidate won’t release tax returns

Works for:, an online clothing company.

Marital status: Married to Pamela Walls.

Lives in: Says he rents space in his mother-in-law’s 82-year-old, 1,662-square-foot-bungalow in Galewood.

From his tax returns: Walls won’t release them. “My wife made it clear: We file jointly, and she didn’t sign up for that,” he says.

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