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With Election Day Years Away, Emanuel Campaign Fund Collects Big Donations

Although he’s not up for re-election until 2019, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign fund collected more than $590,000 in the second quarter of 2016. Political scientist Paul Green thinks the fund-raising means Emanuel is sending a message: “Don’t write me off, and you better show me a little respect.” Even with the election far-off, that message seems timely. A New York Times poll from the spring showed the mayor’s disapproval rating at 62 percent.

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Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel

Campaign-fund disclosures from Rahm Emanuel show Chicago’s mayor raising money like an active candidate, even with the election almost three years away.

The mayor collected more than $590,000 in the last three months — about two-thirds of it from a small group of organizations and their employees.

“It means he has sort of an active campaign operation going on,” says Sarah Brune, executive director for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

The fund-raising sends a message, says Paul Green, a political science professor at Roosevelt University. In Green’s words, Emanuel’s message amounts to: “Don’t write me off, and you better show me a little respect.”

Even with the election far-off, that message seems timely. A New York Times poll from the spring showed 62 percent of Chicagoans disapproving of the mayor’s job performance.

“Just think if he didn’t raise any money,” says Green. “Then people would say, ‘Ah, he’s so unpopular. No one will give him money! Oh, this means he’s not going to run in 2019. This means for the next two-and-a-half, three years, he’s going to be a lame-duck mayor… a political eunuch.”

Given the circumstances, says Green, “If I were Rahm Emanuel, I’d raise money.”

The donations come from a highly-concentrated group.

  • Each of three labor-affiliated political groups gave the maximum amount permitted by law: $53,900.

  • Emanuel received contributions from multiple executives at several real-estate and finance companies, including the skyscraper-development group Magellan, the private-equity fund Dearborn Madison Partners, and the Chicago Board of Options Exchange.

  • More than two-dozen attorneys from the law firm Kirkland and Ellis donated, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,400—the most an individual is allowed to give under Illinois law to a single candidate during an election cycle.

  • Seven women who appear to be married to investment-fund executives and Kirkland & Ellis attorneys donated that maximum amount. Six list their occupations as “homemaker,” the seventh as “gallery owner.”

Dan Weissmann is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @danweissmann.

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