Both reported donations one month after Crusader story
By Erick Johnson
Aldermen Leslie Hairston (5th) and Anthony Beale (9th) have accepted $20,000 in campaign donations from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, becoming the latest Black elected officials who risk a political backlash from voters in the city elections on February 26, 2019.
The donations are the largest amount for the two aldermen, who quietly reported them as emotions cool from a scathing Crusader investigation that ties Black aldermen with the mayor.
Hairston and Beale reported their campaign donations to the State Board of Elections on November 6, nearly one month after five aldermen reported accepting $20,000 from the mayor. They include: Aldermen Carrie Austin (34th), Emma Mitts (37th), Howard Brookins, Jr. (21st), Roderick Sawyer (6th), and Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th).
Most are silent on what they plan to do with the money, but Sawyer promised to donate the money to 10 community organizations, and Austin told the Crusader she plans to spend a portion of the money on holiday community events in her ward. She plans to use the other half on her re-election campaign.
The Black aldermen were among many who received $20,000 from the mayor after he hosted a breakfast at the restaurant, 312 Chicago, across from City Hall on October 12. He gave some aldermen $20,000, but others waited later to accept the money, in efforts to keep the donations low-key. Emanuel gave the aldermen the campaign funds to help the aldermen get re-elected next year.
The event was not announced to the media, and the mayor’s office told the Crusader that there was no list of the aldermen who received the donations. The Crusader learned who the aldermen were through a search of campaign records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
The Black aldermen took the money even as public outrage boiled after a Crusader story reported that they took a total of $433,777 weeks before approving a $5 million settlement for the estate of Laquan McDonald at two meetings where most of them said nothing before the amount as approved.
Many of the Black aldermen were rewarded after they helped the mayor get re-elected after he defeated Chuy Garcia in the first runoff in the city’s history. Many believed those donations were also hush money that bought the loyalty and silence of Black aldermen in the years that followed Emanuel’s re-election.
A study by the University of Illinois at Chicago revealed that those who received money voted in favor at of the mayor at least 96 percent of the time at City Council meetings for nearly two years. It was the highest percentage among the city’s 18 Black aldermen.
Beale, who, according to the study, voted in favor of the mayor’s proposals 97 percent of the time, received $13,915 from the mayor in 2015. With the mayor’s latest donation, Beale has now received $33,915.
Before this story, Hairston has managed to avoid scrutiny or questions about her ties to the mayor. But she was among 49 aldermen who approved the $5 million at the City Council meeting on April 15, 2015. Beale approved the amount twice, as a member of the Chicago Finance Committee and the City Council.
Since July, a surge of donations for Beale has raised $129,325 for his campaign. In November alone, state records show that Beale raised $55,000. Hairston has raised $56,250 in the past three months. Her biggest month was September, where she raised $23,750.
The mayor’s $20,000 donations are the largest given to Hairston and Beale, who are seeking a sixth and fourth term in office, respectively.
One of Hairston’s opponents, activist William Calloway, blasted her for accepting the campaign donation from Emanuel, who will not seek a third term in office after he was accused of suppressing the video that shows Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16 times in 2014.
Calloway was among the activists who helped persuade a Cook County judge to release the video.
Calloway says Hairston took the donation after hearing that he was thinking about running against her from circulating petitions throughout the ward. In a press release, Calloway said Hairston taking any money from Rahm shows where her allegiance lies.
“Her lack of willingness to hold higher elected officials accountable by being paid off to remain silent, [sic]” Calloway said in an email.
After this story went to press on Tuesday, a Beale emailed a statement to the Crusader.
“We’re glad to have the donation – we’ll use it to keep up the voter momentum and increased participation that was shown in Chicago and across Illinois in November’s election,” Beale said.
The Crusader has not heard back from Hairston.