Monday, September 29, 2014
Digital Sign Permits Courtesy Of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Provide Prime Advertising For GOP Gubernatorial Candidate
The Illinois Republican primary for governor could not have turned out better for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat. Emanuel owed that cool $16 million he earned in his very brief career as an investment banker despite having no prior business experience to billionaire venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, the first-time candidate who snatched the GOP nomination away from veteran GOP elected officials in this year's primary. In the past, Rauner has contributed more than a half million dollars to Democratic candidates like former Mayor Richard Daley, along with generous contributions to Republicans. Rauner's wife even contributed to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
It turns out that Emanuel has done his part to repay Rauner. Shortly after Emanuel became Chicago's mayor in 2011, Rauner started up a new company, Digital Greensigns, and applied for 107 sign permits from City Hall after a new law allowed sign companies to obtain permits for digital signs. Emanuel's administration awarded 37 permits to Rauner's company, which has put up 23 digital signs so far according to the Sun-Times' Tim Novak, making it one of Chicago's largest digital billboard sign operators. Rauner's gubernatorial campaign has been using the signs throughout the city for campaign advertisements that alternate messages 24x7, including images depicting Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's alter ego, Quinnochio, who has a very long nose because he keeps telling lies. Campaign finance reports show that Rauner's company has provided $215,000 of free advertising to his campaign to date.
The City subsequently tightened the regulations on the placement of digital signs after people started complaining about them being too big, too bright and too close to residential neighborhoods, but it waited nearly three years before doing so to the chagrin of the critics of digital billboard signs. Naturally, all of Rauner's signs were exempted from the new regulations, although enforcement action has been taken against a couple after aldermen complained that proper approvals weren't obtained for the signs. Novak says the Rauner's signs are 40% larger than what the current regulations allow. Rauner's signs located in neighborhood business districts are also larger than what current regulations allow, and he has signs less than 125 feet from residential neighborhoods. Emanuel's campaign committee returned a pair of $5,000 campaign contributions it received from two of Rauner's business partners shortly after the new regulations went into effect. The Chicago Combine as the Chicago Tribune's John Kass describes the relationship between Democrats and Republicans in Illinois is alive and well.