Stone: “I’m the aggrieved party” in attack ad campaign

March 30, 2011

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(WBEZ/ Odette Yousef)
Stone said he was "deceived" by his former campaign manager.

50th Ward Alderman Bernard Stone testified under oath Wednesday that he had no idea his reelection campaign was paying an outside committee to attack his opponent. Stone testified in a public hearing at the Illinois State Board of Elections as part of an investigation into Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward, a political action committee that originally filed as independent of any candidate. But Stone’s campaign manager, Abrar “Adam” Quader, admitted he directed about $13,000 from the Bernard L. Stone Campaign Committee to pay for mailers, robocalls, and other communications that explicitly attacked Debra Silverstein, Stone’s opponent in this year’s city council race. Quader said he was responsible for the content of those materials and for the funding of the PAC, even though its papers were filed under the name of a 22-year old student at Truman College.

Stone said at the hearing that he is treasurer of his own campaign committee, and signed the checks that ultimately went to Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward. But under questioning by the attorney for the complainant, Stone admitted that he had absolutely no knowledge of what one check, for $4000, covered.
 
“I never reviewed their invoices,” said Stone. “I put my complete trust in Mr. Quader.”

The Board investigation was prompted by a complaint by David Lifsics, a volunteer with the Silverstein campaign. Debra Silverstein has complained in several interviews about the shadowy organization that blitzed ward residents one week before the February 22 election. Prior to Lifisics’s complaint, the shadowy organization had not filed any financial disclosure forms, as required by the State Board of Elections. It also did not establish a bank account to accept contributions until after the complaint was filed. Its chairman, political science student Erik Avila, said all its funds came from the Bernard L Stone Campaign Committee. Avila said Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward still has between $15,000 and $16,000 debt.

But under oath Wednesday, Stone said he was the victim in this matter. “What I'm saying here is that I'm the aggrieved party. Money was misdirected, my instructions were not followed.” Stone blamed Quader, saying Quader had led him to believe that the checks were being used to pay for mailings directly from his campaign.
 
“Everything that Concerned Citizens put out in those brochures was true,” said Stone. “I didn't say it wasn't true, but it was... negative campaigning. I refused to have gone down to that level.”
 
Stone said once he found out that Quader had routed money to Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward, after the Feb. 22 election, they severed ties.

Stone also told reporters that he was hurt by the signs produced by Concerned Citizens of the 50th Ward, because they showed his name alongside that of Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel.
 
“They cost me votes by putting out those signs, which show ‘Emanuel and Stone,’” said Stone. “All the Orthodox Jews did not support Rahm, because Rahm had done stuff that was negative, as far as the Orthodox Jews were concerned.”
 
The 50th Ward has a significant population of Orthodox Jewish voters, and both Stone and Silverstein are from that community. Emanuel has endorsed Silverstein.

This race, which has gone to a run-off, has become a tight one. Stone has held the seat for almost 38 years, and argues his experience is more critical than ever because the city’s budget troubles are mounting and Chicago will see new leadership under Emanuel and a slate of new city council members. But many in the ward point to its physical appearance and say it has deteriorated under Stone, and that they’re ready for someone new. Silverstein, a certified public accountant, has latched onto that sentiment in her campaign. A political newcomer herself, Silverstein still brings significant political power to her bid from her husband, Ira Silverstein. Ira Silverstein is the area’s state senator, as well as the 50th ward’s Democratic committeeman. That has concerned some ward residents, who worry too much power would be concentrated in one family.