Emanuel PAC to elect others supporting his “reform agenda”
By ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2011 6:16PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is setting up his “political arm” to elect aldermen, state legislators, maybe even congressmen who see things his way.
“The New Chicago Committee” will be incorporated Monday as a Political Action Committee and will start accepting donations to give to candidates who support Emanuel’s “reform agenda,” said Tom Bowen, who will manage the fund.
Bowen was deputy campaign manager for Emanuel’s mayoral campaign. He also managed the campaigns of Rep. Mike Quigley, former Rep. Bill Foster and independent candidate for assessor Forrest Claypool, and he got Alexi Giannoulias through the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
Under the new state campaign finance law, Emanuel’s PAC will be limited to contributing just $50,000 to each of eight aldermanic races in which Emanuel has so far made endorsements.
That would mean a maximum of $700,000 if Emanuel weighs in on all 14 races, though there are some he may stay out of, Bowen said.
Emanuel can transfer only $50,000 from the $2 million he already has in his mayoral campaign fund. So fund-raising will have to start anew for the New Chicago Committee. But given Emanuel’s proven fund-raising abilities, that shouldn’t be a problem.
As he did in the mayoral campaign, Emanuel will not accept contributions from city lobbyists for the fund.
When outgoing Mayor Daley got in trouble for creating a political army with organizations such as the Hispanic Democratic Organization — groups that current or aspiring city workers felt obliged to join if they wanted jobs or promotions at City Hall — Emanuel came to Daley’s defense.
But the New Chicago Committee will not become an HDO, Bowen said.
“The committee is more analogous to Organizing for America than anything else — it is a transparent entity that will continue to engage the more than 5,000 volunteers we recruited, maintain and enhance data, and provide training and support to candidates who are committed to reforming Chicago,” Bowen said.
People who volunteered for Emanuel’s mayoral campaign may get e-mails inviting them to volunteer at the nearest ward in which Emanuel has endorsed, he said.
“We will make assessments on the ground how people are doing, coordinate with other interested parties, labor, pro-choice, environmental groups,” Bowen said. The help may come in the form of money, paid staff, mailers, phone-banking, or whatever the aldermanic campaign thinks most helpful, he said.
“We’re allowed to fully coordinate with the campaigns, where we can be the most helpful,” Bowen said.
Political consultant Don Rose said merely establishing a PAC, as many congressmen or other political leaders do, should not yet set off red flags about the creation of a new HDO.
“It does not necessarily mean that city workers are going to be involved,” Rose said. “If he starts establishing an organization the way Daley did, that’s when you have to worry.”
Emanuel is reaching out to candidates to see which of them will support his approach to government.
“That includes support for his ethics and government reform agenda; his contracting reforms to make contracts go to the most competitive bidder not the best connected; making tax increment financing districts transparent and focused on blighted neighborhoods and reforms to get our city finances back on track by making our government deliver services more efficiently,” said Emanuel spokesman Ben Labolt.
Emanuel is not holding grudges — he endorsed Ald. Danny Solis (25th) who campaigned for Gery Chico for mayor, Bowen said. Solis faces community activist Cuahutemoc “Temoc” Morfin.
“Rahm has spoken with Danny and has committed to supporting him,” Bowen said. “Going forward, he thinks he will be good on the reform items. Looking through the prism of ‘What have you done for me?’ That’s not how we view it.”
Emanuel has not decided whether to endorse in the 41st and 45th Wards where Democrats face Republicans.
“Partisanship is less the focus than the reform agenda,” Bowen said. “You don’t approach city issues from an ideological perspective.”
In wards such as 41 where plenty of police officers voted against Emanuel out of fear he might tinker with their pensions, Emanuel could opt to make no endorsement so as not to damage a candidate he favors.
Unions, Ald. and Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke (14th), and a group called For a Better Chicago are also reaching out to candidates to support those who agree with them.
For a Better Chicago is run by a former Emanuel congressional campaign manager, Greg Goldner, but Emanuel said even though that group is working for just about all the same candidates he is working for, that is not his group. And he called on Goldner to disclose where the group’s money is coming from.