Who Paid For Public Officials’ Trip To Rome? | WBEZ
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Who Paid For Public Officials’ Trip To Rome?

Of the 23 public officials -- and 13 family members -- who traveled to Rome to see Archbishop Blase Cupich’s elevation to Cardinal, some used their own money to pay for the trip. Others… not so much. And one just hasn’t said. 

Here’s what we know:

FREE RIDES:

World Business Chicago, a non-profit that gets $1.2 million in city funds, paid for the travel and accommodations for eight city officials to go to Rome.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel chairs WBC’s board, and the city’s 2015 grant to WBC specifies only that the public funds must be used “for purposes of fulfilling WBC’s mission.” The grant describes that mission as “facilitating and coordinating business attraction, retention and expansion efforts for the City.”

A WBC spokeswoman says the organization raised private funds, rather than using taxpayer dollars, to pay for the Rome trip, plus a reception at the U.S. embassy for the Chicago delegation.  

  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel
  • Amy Rule, the mayor’s wife
  • Eddie Johnson, police superintendent
  • Jose Santiago, fire commissioner
  • Michael Rendina, director of inter-governmental affairs
  • Adam Collins, the mayor’s press secretary
  • Lisa Kohnke, assistant to the mayor
  • Samantha Fields, assistant to the mayor
  • Ashli Nelson, administrative assistant in the mayor’s office
  • Zack Kelly, administrative secretary-- described as Emanuel’s “bodyman” by the mayor’s office.

JUST NOT SAYING:

Staff for Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward, did not respond to calls or emails. 

MIXING THE POLITICAL AND THE PERSONAL:

The following elected officials used campaign funds for their expenses and their own money to bring family members:

  • Ald. Danny Solis, 25th Ward
  • Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th Ward
  • Susana Mendoza, Chicago City Clerk (and Illinois Comptroller-Elect)
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley Used campaign funds for his flight, personal funds for other expenses and personal funds for his wife’s trip. 
  • Police Supt. Eddie Johnson went for free (see above) but used his own money to bring his fiancee, Lt. Nakia Fenner.

ON THEIR OWN DIME

The following people (or their representatives) told WBEZ they used personal funds to pay for themselves and any family members

  • Gov. Bruce Rauner and family. The governor’s wife, Diana, and daughter, Katherine traveled to Rome together
  • U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and his wife.
  • State Sen. John Cullerton, and his wife.
  • Catherine Kelly, press secretary for Gov. Bruce Rauner.
  • Mayor Emanuel’s chief of staff, Eileen Mitchell, and her husband.
  • Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and her husband. A staffer said Gainer “had business in London.” In addition to Gainer’s county post, she works as a lobbyist for Aon. 

NOT ENTIRELY CLEAR:

Staffers for the following officials said that they did not know whether their bosses used campaign funds or political funds. However, they all said that taxpayer funds were not used. 

  • State Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke
  • Ald. Margaret Laurino, 39th Ward
  • Ald. Pat O’Connor, 40th Ward, and his wife.

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

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