The mayor's millionaire club, part II | Feature | Chicago Reader

The mayor's millionaire club, part II 

A look at Rahm Emanuel's calendar shows how wealth and access, far more than party identity or ideology, have come to comand the attention of politicians—leaving everyday people out of the conversation

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Rahm Emanuel met with GOP funders, shadow government figures, favor seekers, contractors, mayoral campaign contributors, and longtime insiders last fall.

Rahm Emanuel met with GOP funders, shadow government figures, favor seekers, contractors, mayoral campaign contributors, and longtime insiders last fall.

On the morning of May 17, aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel leaked word that he was furious about the "blatant hypocrisy."

Hours earlier, the New York Times had reported that Joe Ricketts—patriarch of the family that owns the Cubs—was funding an effort to thwart President Obama's reelection bid. Among the ad campaigns under consideration was one attacking Obama as an anti-American radical and mocking him for supposedly trying to be a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."

Over the next few days Emanuel would repeatedly display his anger, calling the anti-Obama campaign "insulting," then breaking into laughter and abruptly leaving a press conference when asked about blowing off Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Joe's son, who'd been lobbying for a deal to rehab Wrigley Field with tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The message was clear: Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff and one of the nation's most powerful Democrats, had little patience for the ugly personal attacks and loose campaign finance rules fueling the opposition to Obama's agenda.

Out of the public view, though, Emanuel hasn't been quite so turned off by the president's enemies.

As Obama struggled last fall to move his policies through Congress, Emanuel quietly made time in his schedule for one-on-one chats with some of the country's biggest donors to right-wing causes, including conservative organizations fighting environmental protections, "illegal aliens," and financial regulations, and political action committees aligned with Karl Rove, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, who famously declared, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Oh yeah—they've also given millions of dollars to Mitt Romney.

Welcome to part two in our ongoing series on the mayor's millionaire's club, in which we pore over the mayor's daily appointment schedule with the aim of shedding light on how the mayor prioritizes his time—and his far-reaching connections.

That's the appointment schedule Emanuel refuses to share with the public. Though the mayor has pledged to create "the most open, accountable, and transparent government that the city of Chicago has ever seen"—not that the bar is particularly high—he has declined to make his meeting schedule available online or in any other regularly accessible format. And so we've had to ask for pieces of it through Freedom of Information Act requests, and then waited, and waited, and waited.

In contrast, President Obama posts logs of White House visitors and updates them regularly. That means it's easier to find out who Emanuel was meeting with in the White House when he was the president's chief of staff than to see who visited him on the fifth floor of Chicago's City Hall.

Last September, after submitting a FOIA request and badgering mayoral aides for weeks, we received copies of the first months of Emanuel's daily schedule. We reported in October that it was filled with rich guys who also happened to be some of the mayor's big-money donors.

This time we asked for the next three months of the calendar: September, October, and November of 2011—a period when GOP presidential candidates battling for the nomination were railing against the White House.

The mayor's office didn't respond to our request to discuss Emanuel's schedule. But once again, we found that his days were loaded with rich guys, campaign donors, powerful contractors, union busters, charter-school supporters, City Hall insiders, aldermanic brownnosers, and other favor seekers.

But during these three months Emanuel found time for another type of visitor: major funders of conservative attacks on President Obama. As such, the mayor's calendar offers a glimpse of what passes for bipartisanship in Chicago—and shows the ways in which wealth and access, at least as much as party identity or ideology, have come to command the attention of politicians, leaving everyday people out of the conversation.

For instance, on September 1 Emanuel met for an hour with Muneer Satter, a managing director at Goldman Sachs. Satter donated $190,000 last year to Restore Our Future, a Romney-affiliated PAC, and he's sent tens of thousands more to top congressional Republicans fighting to slash federal programs and regulations. Yet Goldman Sachs isn't averse to taking money from governments predominated by Democrats: the city of Chicago has hired the firm repeatedly for no-bid work as an adviser on bond issues, including a $600 million bond sale last month. In February the CTA picked the firm to advise it on "public-private partnerships" to help finance infrastructure.

A couple weeks after the chat with Satter, the mayor set aside an hour for one of his favorite Republicans, Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel Investment Group, a hedge fund. The Griffin household was particularly generous to Mayor Emanuel's campaign: Griffin himself donated $100,000 while his wife, Anne Dias-Griffin, who also manages a hedge fund, gave another $100,000. Other Citadel employees chipped in $39,000 more.

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