Emanuel cashes in on the big lakefront concerts

Emanuel cashes in on the big lakefront concerts

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The Emanuel administration has been very good to the big national corporations that dominate the summer concert scene on the city’s lakefront, and key players in those companies have in turn been very good to the mayor’s bid for re-election.

According to campaign finance records filed with the state, top executives with the out-of-town companies behind Lollapalooza and the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island have donated nearly $70,000 to Chicago for Rahm Emanuel. During the mayor’s first term, the massive concert in Grant Park won an open-ended contract extension and Live Nation secured a lock on Northerly Island and the right to expand its concert venue there to a capacity of 30,000 in a process that may have sidestepped rules for competitive bidding.

These donations were accepted by the mayor’s re-election committee despite the executive order Emanuel signed early in his term strengthening existing rules that “prohibit [the mayor and city employees] from accepting political contributions from persons doing business with the city,” and despite his pledge during the first campaign to ask for an independent negotiator to deal with Lollapalooza and Live Nation/Ticketmaster to avoid conflict of interest because of those companies’ close ties to his brother Ari.

Asked to comment on the new donations, campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry initially promised a statement several times over the weekend, then deferred comment to the mayor’s staff, forwarding this blog’s questions to “the City side.” The Emanuel administration did not respond to that request for comment.

** UPDATE: Said Kelley Quinn, the mayor’s chief spokeswoman: “The contributions noted are fully compliant with the law and the higher standards the Mayor voluntarily imposes on himself per his executive order. In fact, since taking office Mayor Emanuel has strengthened city ethics and campaign finance rules, including mandating unprecedented restrictions on mayoral fundraising.”

When questioned by The Chicago Tribune last March about the apparent conflict with Lollapalooza, mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said the rule does not apply because the concert has its deal with the Park District, not the city per se, implying that the mayor has no control over the parks administration which he appoints. The Park District also struck the deal for Northerly Island.

Lollapalooza is now owned by three entities: Austin-based C3 Presents (run by the so-called “three Charlies”—Jones, Attal, and Walker); William Morris Endeavor (the Hollywood talent agency run by Rahm’s brother Ari), and Live Nation/Ticketmaster, the giant national concert promoter that also owns the Northerly Island venue. (Ari Emanuel also sits on Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s Board of Directors.)

Under state law, the maximum amount individuals can donate to the mayoral campaign is $5,300, but many of the concert players doubled that amount via contributions from their wives. The big musical contributors in recent months break down as follows:

  • Charlie Jones, C3 partner, and his wife Melanie: $10,600.
  • Charlie Walker, C3 partner, and his wife Elizabeth: $10,600.
  • Charles Attal, C3 partner: $5,300.
  • Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza founder and corporate figurehead, and his wife Etty: $10,600.
  • Mark Campana, regional president of North America concerts for Live Nation, and his wife Wendy: $10,600.
  • William Morris Endeavor Entertainment: $10,500.
  • William Morris Endeavor agent and partner Mike Simpson: $5,300.
  • William Morris Endeavor agent and partner Rick Rosen: $5,300.

Notably missing among the names of contributors to Emanuel’s second campaign are Live Nation’s top executives Michael Rapino and Irving Azoff, who gave a total of $15,000 in 2010. Many more William Morris agents also contributed to the first campaign, with 15 employees writing checks for a total of $141,000.

When this blog first reported those contributions, then-campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said, “Given his brother’s position at WME [William Morris Endeavor] and on the board of Live Nation, Rahm would ask the City Council to appoint an outside negotiator to handle any negotiations with these companies so that there wasn’t even a question of favoritism.” Emanuel broke that promise, and both the Lollapalooza contract extension and Live Nation’s expanded deal on Northerly Island were handled by the Park District without an independent negotiator.

Voting on Feb. 24 still is three weeks away, and Chicago for Rahm Emanuel still is raising money. The state Website to follow the numbers can be found here, and it’s also worth watching the Tribune’s Twitter feed for campaign disclosures.

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