Weather Updates

Mayor a serial caller — to friends in Washington D.C.

Updated: June 14, 2012 8:28AM

WASHINGTON — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a serial caller, keeping connected with Capitol Hill, Cabinet members and the White House in his first year in office.

Emanuel is not one of those mayors who aspire to be a national figure; he arrived in City Hall as one — what with being President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, a veteran of the Bill Clinton White House and part of House Democratic leadership before he joined the Obama administration.

It’s not unusual for Emanuel to touch base with Bruce Reed — chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden — whom he met during Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Reed is the sort of person Emanuel can bounce ideas around with and plot policy: the two wrote a book together in 2006, ‘The Plan: Big Ideas for America.”

It’s also not unusual for Emanuel to call House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office, contacting a senior staffer every few weeks. Emanuel, I was told, “gives a short report about initiatives he is working on and then asks about what is happening in Washington.”

Emanuel has been back to Washington since becoming mayor, for a variety of reasons — he accepted invitations to the Gridiron Club and White House Correspondents’ Association dinners — but his most urgent mission has been to leverage his extensive contacts in the Obama administration to land money for Chicago projects. He front-loaded on this one — to be prudent, not predictive — before the November election.

It’s not unusual for Emanuel to call his former White House colleagues. He is a co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign.

When Bill Daley succeeded him as Obama chief of staff the two would talk; then again, it was a continuation of a relationship that long predated Obama.

More often, the calls had a purpose. “From what I know,” Daley said when Emanuel would phone the White House staffers, “it was all stuff for Chicago.”

To that point, Emanuel has met in Washington with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Director Janet Napalitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

A string of Obama administration figures have hit Chicago for events or meetings with Emanuel, including first lady Michelle — who did a food desert program — and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, LaHood, twice, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, twice.

The City of Chicago has run an office here for decades. Emanuel picked a political operative, Melissa Green to run the Washington operation — whom he met during the 1992 Clinton campaign in Little Rock, Ark., where they toiled in the “War Room” together. Green went on to work in the Clinton and Obama White House.

FOOTNOTE: Emanuel’s City Hall has a diplomatic side: In the past year, 17 ambassadors have visited with Emanuel; six ambassadors have met with the deputy mayor and three ambassadors have been received by the mayor’s office staff.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.