Garry McCarthy’s opponents in the Chicago mayoral race are calling on the former top cop to return controversial campaign contributions from a twice-convicted felon.
The contributions come from former attorney Stuart West, who has given McCarthy’s campaign more than $12,000, according to campaign financial reports.
West plead guilty in 1985 to mail and tax fraud after stealing nearly $1 million from a client, Mary Kochton Appley. People who attended the trial told WBEZ that Appley suffered from multiple sclerosis, which had progressed to the point where Appley had to use a wheelchair.
A federal judge sentenced West to seven years in prison and ordered him to pay back the Appley family. Shortly after the trial, West voluntarily disbarred himself, according to state records.
West again ran into trouble with the law in 2003, when then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald charged him with filing false tax returns. West plead guilty and a judge sentenced him to two-and-half years in prison.
Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, who served as CEO of Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Richard M. Daley and was a 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor, said political campaigns should always run background checks on donors. Vallas said that doesn’t appear to be the case with McCarthy’s campaign.
“I certainly would return the money,” Vallas said.
Last month, WBEZ reported that Vallas’ campaign returned a $500 campaign contribution from a controversial former member of the Chicago Board of Education.
In addition to West’s criminal history, he currently owes the state of Illinois at least $318,388 in taxes, according to state records. The IRS also placed two tax liens on West in 2005 for a total of nearly $2.5 million, according to records from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Troy LaRaviere, a mayoral candidate and president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, also said McCarthy should return West’s contributions. But LaRaviere said he has bigger questions about West’s contribution to McCarthy.
“What does Stuart West expect in return on his investment, because it’s not a donation,” LaRaviere said. “They don’t give money. They invest money and they expect a return on their investment. So what is the return he expects to get from Chicago taxpayers, from the wealth of our city, if Garry McCarthy becomes our mayor?”
When asked if McCarthy would return West’s contributions, McCarthy spokesman John Davis declined to comment.
Attempts to reach West were unsuccessful.
Tom Bowen, a political consultant with the firm New Chicago Consulting who served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s deputy campaign manager and political director until 2013, said if he were advising McCarthy’s campaign, he’d tell him to return the money.
“He obviously was the police superintendent, so he does want to strike a ‘law and order’ profile, and this is counter to it,” Bowen said. “So he should return this money to make this story an afterthought as opposed to something that is indicative to how he will govern.”
A spokeswoman for Emanuel’s campaign declined to comment.
McCarthy’s campaign faces increasing criticism for its list of donors. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who currently serves as one of President Donald Trump’s attorneys, gave $5,600 to the campaign in January, according to state records.
Giuliani this week sent a series of tweets praising McCarthy, causing the former superintendent to distance himself from Giuliani and issue a statement saying that he is a Democrat. That statement did not say whether McCarthy would return Giuliani’s money.
McCarthy’s campaign has also accepted more than $25,000 from attorney Joseph Dombrowski, whose law license has been suspended three times, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Hunter Clauss is a digital editor for WBEZ. You can follow him at @whuntah.