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Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposing new round of ethics reforms

Mayor Rahm Emanuel  announced number ethics reforms establish transparency accountability city government Chicago Board Ethics. Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a number of ethics reforms to establish transparency and accountability in city government at the Chicago Board of Ethics. Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 6, 2011 4:49AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing another round of ethics reforms — this time to “rein in the influence” of City Hall lobbyists and lift the veil on their influence-peddling activities.

“I want to re-establish the ties that have been frayed between the public and those of us in public service,” Emanuel told a news conference at the city’s Board of Ethics, 740 N. Sedgwick.

“Part of that is giving them a sense of confidence that we are conducting ourselves in a professional and ethical way. This is another building block or another brick in that foundation that, I think, is so important.”

During his first few hours in office, Emanuel signed a series of executive orders that, among other things, slammed the “revolving door” that has allowed city employees and mayoral appointees to lobby City Hall. They are now banned from doing so for at least two years after leaving their jobs.

Emanuel also swore off campaign contributions from city lobbyists and insulated city employees from pressure they had felt to give gifts or make political contributions to the mayor, department heads or city supervisors.

More recently, the mayor also posted an unprecedented amount of information about city lobbyists on the internet.

Now, he is prepared to go even further to minimize influence peddling.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the mayor will introduce an ordinance limiting — to $50 per gift and $100 per calendar year —the value of gifts lobbyists can give to city employees.

City employees would also be prohibited from getting loans from individual lobbyists or their businesses. Twice a year, lobbyists would be required to report their campaign contributions to city employees and elected officials.

Emanuel’s plan would also create, what the mayor’s office calls the “most comprehensive lobbyist disclosure database in the nation.”

Lobbyists would literally be required to disclose who they lobby and what they are lobbying for and post those disclosures online in “real-time,” so voters can access the information before legislation is approved.

It’s not clear what precipitated the ban on loans or borrowing from city lobbyists, but a similar controversy arose more than a decade ago under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

In 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association reported on mayoral pal Oscar D’Angelo’s backstage maneuvering at O’Hare Airport.

The newspaper reported that D’Angelo, an unregistered lobbyist, had collected at least $480,000 to broker a 10-year contract extension for British bookseller W.H. Smith.

The 1996 concession deal put two friends of Daley’s wife, Maggie, in business at O’Hare: Economic Club President Grace Barry and public relations maven Barbara Burrell.

D’Angelo had earlier embarrassed Daley by making $10,500 worth of interest-free loans to the mayor’s deputy chief of staff.

Although Emanuel has focused heavily on ethics reform since taking office, he is not prepared to push the City Council — either by empowering Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate aldermen or by pressuring aldermen to fill the job of legislative inspector general they created more than a year ago, but still have not gotten around to filling.

“I appreciate that, that position may be open. That doesn’t mean we won’t address it. . . . I’ll look into this. I’ll talk to the City Council about it. But, it doesn’t take away from what we’re doing today,” he said.

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