When Emanuel took office as mayor, he signed an executive order that banned city contractors from contributing to the mayor's campaign committee. In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard relies on city contractors for about 90% of his campaign contributions, but you wouldn't know that from reading the Indianapolis Star where the former managing editor actually rejected in an opinion piece one time the notion that the concept of pay-to-play existed in Indianapolis. Not surprisingly, the Tribune has sought to hold Emanuel accountable for enforcing his executive order and asked how a major restaurateur that operates at O'Hare International Airport could skirt the executive order. Here's what Coen found:
In April, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood in the newly remodeled Terminal 5 at O'Hare International Airport, unveiling the sparkling gateway as the newest evidence of Chicago's global status. The project developer predicted international fliers would generate big sales at the new shops and restaurants, thanks in part to the airport debut of famed local restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and its popular Chicago brands, including Wow Bao, Big Bowl and R.J. Grunts Burger and Fries.
Just a month earlier, Emanuel himself was at a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, records show, for a political fundraiser that earned him more than $26,000 from restaurant founder Richard Melman and his family. The money from the event at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab was part of more than $59,000 donated to the mayor's re-election fund in March by people and restaurants tied to Lettuce Entertain You.
A campaign spokesman for Emanuel said the mayor's political operation asked for the fundraiser hosted by Lettuce Entertain You, which stands to reap profits from its preferential arrangement at the airport approved by Emanuel's administration. Both the campaign spokesman and a spokeswoman for the mayor's office said the circumstances did not violate the mayor's executive order banning city contractors from donating to him because Lettuce Entertain You is a licensee under its arrangement with the firm that has the city contract to run concessions at O'Hare.
"We follow the law and the executive order," said Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn, who declined to answer detailed questions about why the mayor sought the fundraiser. "We believe that this situation holds true to both and does not violate the spirit of the executive order either."
But the donations provide a fresh example of how the ethics rules Emanuel signed on his first day in office don't prevent him from raising millions of dollars in political cash from people who are beholden to his administration . . .The story goes on to discuss stories the Tribune has done in the past about Emanuel soliciting large campaign contributions from businesses and individuals seeking to do business with the city and from real estate developers who need the city's blessing for their projects and bond lawyers who perform work on bond finance deals. Wouldn't it be nice if a reporter in this town could actually perform the kind of investigative journalism on how business is conducted at our city hall, which is every bit as corrupt, if not more corrupt, than Chicago's city hall? After all, virtually every major decision made by Mayor Ballard is linked to campaign contributions. Would someone at the Star actually study his campaign finance reports for a change?