Person

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Mayor of Chicago (2011-) (link)
Office:

55th Mayor of Chicago, Illinois

Previous Offices:

White House Chief of Staff;

U.S. Representative, Illinois’ 5th District

Political Party:

Democratic Party

Net Worth (Approximate):

$14 million

Rahm Emanuel is an American politician who served as the 55th mayor of Chicago from 2011 through 2019.[1] Emanuel has served in several senior positions in government, including Senior Advisor to President Bill Clinton, White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ 5th District, covering part of Chicago. Rahm Emanuel was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, helping the Democrats to gain 30 seats and elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) Speaker of the House.

Emanuel has been known for his “in-your-face money demands,”[2] bizarre antics,[3] foul and disparaging language,[4] and an aggressive persistence and intensity.[5]

Peter Wallsten of the Wall Street Journal calls Emanuel “a centrist cut from the Bill Clinton mold” while “Cenk Uygur, a liberal talk-radio host, calls Mr. Emanuel “Barack Obama’s Dick Cheney.”[6]

Emauel was elected Mayor of Chicago in 2011. His tenure has been plagued by claims of pay-to-play insider dealings,[7] and rough and tumble policies which have proven controversial.[8].

Background

Rahm Emanuel was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 29, 1959.[9] Emanuel “is the son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Irgun (Etzel or IZL), a Zionist group that operated in British-controlled Palestine between 1931 and 1948.”[10]

Emanuel “began his career with the consumer rights organization Illinois Public Action,” [11] later gaining success as the national finance director for the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. [12]

Positions and Scandals

Senior Advisor to the President

Emanuel began his relationship with the Clintons as the national finance director for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign.”[13] Upon Clinton’s election, Emanuel “was rewarded with the job of White House political director,” and eventually Emanuel became Senior Adviser to the President for Policy and Strategy in which “he was a leading strategist in the successful White House efforts.”[14]

For years, Emanuel was said to be “the political brains of Bill Clinton’s White House.”[15] He has been described as “Intense to the point of ferocity,” and “was known for taking on the most daunting tasks — the ones no one else wanted — and pulling off the seemingly impossible.”[16]

Emanuel was in charge of a number of the Clinton White House’s policy priorities, “from banning assault weapons to beating back the Republican-led impeachment.” As one report wrote, “’Clinton loved Rahm,’ recalled one staffer, ‘because he knew that if he asked Rahm to do something, he would move Heaven and Earth — not necessarily in that order — to get it done.’”[17]

Known as a ”wily, aggressive West Wing strategist,”[18] Emanuel built up a reservoir of colorful exploits.

At one post-election dinner in 1992, Emanuel “grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting “Dead!… Dead!… Dead!’ and plunging the knife into the table after every name.”[19] On another occasion, Emanuel sent a “decomposing two-and-a-half-foot fish he sent to a pollster who displeased him.”[20]

Controversial Policies

Emanuel was credited with spearheading a number of President Clinton’s legislative priorities.

Emanuel “engineered the main strategy” behind the 1994 assault weapons ban.[21] Emanuel’s role in the operation was to “put together this external outreach operation working with cops and other external supporters.”[22]

Emanuel said that he also “played a central role in the passage of the 1994 crime bill,”[23] which was “an enormous $30bn (£21bn) package that was the largest crime-control bill in US history. Critics say the bill decimated communities of color and accelerated mass incarceration.” [24]

Emanuel was one of the architects of the harsh 1996 immigration law known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act,[25] which according to Vox’s Dara Lind, “essentially invented immigration enforcement as we know it today” and going one step further, “Rahm Emanuel wrote a memo recommending a series of aggressive steps President Clinton could take in the wake of the law — including ‘claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens.’” [26]

Emanuel also helped to “engineer passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.”[27]

Time as Investment Banker

According to the Independent, “two years before Clinton left office, [Emanuel] decided to fill his personal coffers by a brief stint in the private sector.”[28] After receiving a presidential appointment to the board of mortgage giant Freddie Mac from 1999 to 2002,[29] Emanuel worked as managing director of investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Chicago[30] reportedly “earning $18m in three years.” [31]

Bruce Wasserstein (who died in 2009) was a “major Democratic donor and renowned Wall Street dealmaker who had gotten to know Mr. Emanuel” and former Colleagues said that Emanuel’s “connections certainly helped drum up business and contributed to his hiring.”[32]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “After Mr. Emanuel left banking to run for Congress, members of the securities and investment industry became his biggest backers, donating more than $1.5 million to his campaigns dating back to 2002.”[33]

U.S. House of Representatives

In 2002 Emanuel won election to the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois’ 5th Congressional District, which covered the northwest side of Chicago and parts of suburban Cook County.[34] Emanuel then served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 election cycle.[35] One Republican leadership staffer summed up Emanuel’s leadership of the DCC in the following manner:

“His philosophy was different. He focused on winning. He recruited candidates who best fit their district, no matter how their philosophy might have conflicted with the liberal ideals of the orthodox Democrats.”[36]

Under Emanuel’s watch the DCCC focused their campaign message sharply on the unfolding criminal investigation and controversy surrounding then-Majority Leader Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas). Emanuel made sure that ”the DCCC was constantly trying to weaken Republican incumbents by feeding news stories into their districts tying them to the unethical conduct of Tom DeLay and [disgraced lobbyist] Jack Abramoff.”[37]

Ultimately, the Democrats under Emanuel gained 30 seats in 2006 and made Rep. Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House, a position she would hold until 2011.[38]

Later, in 2015, some Democrats argued that “in the long run, 2006 might have weakened the Party more than it strengthened it.”[39] Howie Klein, a board member of the Progressive Congress Action Fund,[40] said “Rahm’s recruitment strategy” was “catastrophic.”[41]

In January 2007, the Democrats “elected Emanuel to serve as Democratic Caucus Chair, the fourth-highest-ranking member of the House Democratic Leadership.”[42]

Politico reported that before he departed to work for President Obama, “Emanuel had been on track to eventually become House Speaker.”[43]

“Friends of Rahm Emanuel” was the Federal Election Commission-registered principal campaign committee for Rahm Emanuel. Between 2001 and 2008 the committee raised $8,824,349 and spent $7,146,567.[44]

Chief of Staff

Emanuel was named White House Chief of Staff by then-President-Elect Barack Obama on November 6, 2008.[45] Upon accepting the Chief of Staff position “Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant issued a statement calling Emanuel “a partisan insider”, referring to Emanuel as “‘Hyperpartisan’ Emanuel” and “Rahmbo.”[46]

In 2010 the Wall Street Journal, quoting House aides, described Emanuel’s “role in legislative negotiations as more involved than any chief of staff in recent times.”[47] In one notable instance Emanuel reportedly “tracked down a Democratic member in the showers at the House gym to make sure he was an aye vote.”[48]

Critics alleged Emanuel placed more concern on the political consequences of legislation than the substance of the policy.[49] In one case, Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that he had grown suspicious of Emanuel because he focused “less on the policy outcomes and more on maintaining a Democratic agenda that [would] keep the party in power.” [50]

Markos Moulitsas, publisher of the left-wing blog Daily Kos, said Emanuel was “far too quick and happy to accommodate the Democratic Party’s corporatist wing.” [51]

Within weeks of taking up his White House post, Emanuel was said to be, “shuttling between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid” in order to “resolve disagreements over the $787 billion economic-stimulus package.”[52]

Obamacare

Emanuel is credited with having “engineered” a “Democratic ‘K Street Strategy’” in order to pursue health care reform.”  [53] Emanuel, reportedly would “make backroom deals to protect the interests of the likes of the drug industry and the for-profit hospital industry in exchange for campaign cash, even if this meant reversing campaign promises to include a public option” and other policies.[54] The result, critics at the liberal Huffington Post said, “is a health care bill that is generally unpopular with voters.”[55]

Despite being seen as “central in negotiations” to get special interests on board with the healthcare plan, within the White House, Emanuel was described as “an outspoken opponent of pursuing healthcare reform.”[56]

However, in a June 2012 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel said that he was wrong to be against Obamacare, saying, “I gave him my advice. I told him many times (about) the political cost of doing this… and thank God for the country, he didn’t listen to me.”[57]

“Retard” Comments

In 2010, it was reported by Peter Wallsten of the Wall Street Journal that “the fiery Chicagoan privately called a group of liberal activists “f—ing retarded.”[58] Emanuel subsequently “apologized to the head of the Special Olympics” for his comments.[59] Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) called on President Obama to fire Mr. Emanuel and described the comments as a “sick and offensive tactic.”[60]

Mayor of Chicago

On September 30, 2010, Emanuel left the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago.[61] He was elected on February 22, 2011, winning 55 percent of the vote.[62]

According to Rick Perlstein of the New Yorker, “there have been so many scandals in Emanuel’s administration that have failed to gain traction that it’s hard to single them out.” [63]

Public School Controversies

In 2013, Mayor Emanuel proposed a public schools reform plan that resulted in the closure of 53 elementary schools and one high school, primarily in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods.”[64] As Mayor, Emanuel was accused of “undermining community schools in poor areas of the city” by his political opponents, especially the radical Chicago Teachers Union.[65]

The Chicago Public Schools inspector general investigated claims that Emanuel’s allies[66] and other pastors arranged to pack public hearings with supporters of the school closure idea, paying ‘protesters’ up to fifty dollars each.”[67]

Eavesdropping on The Media

In November 2012, it was discovered that “phone conversations with Chicago Tribune reporters were recorded without their consent by City Hall officials.”[68] The phone conversation in question was in relation to “a phone interview with Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in October 2011”[69] about a string of police killings.

In Illinois it is a felony to record a conversation without the consent of all parties.[70] In response to these claims, Mayor Emanuel said that the issue was “much ado about nothing.”[71]

Anti-Transparency

Upon becoming Mayor of Chicago, Emanuel “proclaimed a new commitment to transparency at City Hall under his leadership.”  [72]

However, in 2011 Mayor Rahm Emanuel “refused to produce” about 2,000 emails “that might shed light on his decisions to raise vehicle fees and water rates and to legalize speeding camera tickets that could hit drivers with $100 fines.”[73] Emanuel’s refusal was based “on the grounds that it would be too much trouble to remove any opinions or deliberations that they say they are allowed to withhold from the public under state law.”[74]

Associate director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform David Morrison “said the refusal “couldn’t be any more egregious.”[75] Terry Pastika, director of Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center, said, “The city of Chicago’s response to these requests is unacceptable… if they are unable to comply with such routine records requests then they need to take a long look at the way they maintain the public’s records.”[76]

In another example of anti-transparent behavior, two reporters with the Chicago Reader “filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the mayor’s private schedule in 2011, which “unlike previous mayors, his public schedule was pretty much blank.”

Laquan McDonald Police Shooting

Mayor Emanuel has had other transparency issues, one of the most prominent relating to the November 2014 police shooting death of Laquan McDonald, which was allegedly covered up by police officers.[77]

Emanuel had maintained since McDonald’s death that he “didn’t understand the gravity” of the McDonald shooting death in part because he never saw the dashboard camera video of the shooting and thus wasn’t aware other officers may have falsified reports about the shooting. Emanuel stated, “when we get the information — that it’s public — that’s when I learned it, like everybody else.”[78]  However, “public documents reviewed by the Chicago Tribune revealed that Emanuel’s Law Department was aware there were allegations of discrepancies as far back as March, more than eight months before the mayor has said he knew.”[79]

Further, the emails proved that the mayor knew exactly what the footage showed when city lawyers negotiated a deal that would at least delay the video’s release. According to reports, City of Chicago lawyers, after meeting with Mayor Emanuel, demanded in a proposed $5 million legal settlement that McDonald’s family bury the video.[80]

Mayoral Political Operation

Emanuel’s Elite Donors

In 2015 the Chicago Tribune found that “Mayor Rahm Emanuel is relying on a core group of loyal campaign contributors to fund his re-election bid, including dozens of companies, firms and individuals who helped bring him to office with donations four years ago and who have since received a benefit from his administration.”[81] Benefits ranged from “city approval for development projects to city contracts to mayoral endorsements or appointments.”[82]

Emanuel’s top 60 Donors gave a combined total of $9,373,459, of that amount, the highest 15 contributors gave $5,833,687, representing 62.2%.[83]

The following table contains Mayor Emanuel’s top 15 donors, which “gave at least $10,000 before Emanuel was elected in 2011 and at least $10,000 since, includes individuals, spouses, business partners and companies themselves.”[84] [85]

 

Donor Total Contributions Connection
Grosvenor Capital Management $1,056,287 Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks, vice chairman of World Business Chicago and Emanuel confidante.
Madison Dearborn Partners $858,800 Investor in city contractor CDW Government; co-CEO Sam Mencoff appointed to World Business Chicago.
Plumbers and Pipefitters unions $766,500 Mayor’s water and sewer upgrades boost union jobs.
Citadel $559,550 CEO Ken Griffin meets with mayor; firm invests in Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which mayor backed for state tax breaks; also invests in companies doing business with city.
Muneer Satter $352,600 Former executive at Goldman Sachs, which got city bond business; appointed to World Business Chicago.
Harris Associates  $290,000 Firm’s Oakmark Fund invests in LiveNation, which books concerts at city’s Northerly Island.
DRW Trading Group $255,100 Donald R. Wilson Jr., founder of DRW trading firm, is developer of multiple hotel projects; Emanuel appeared with Wilson to lobby regulators on futures trading rules.
Henry Crown & Co. $254,400 President James S. Crown appointed by mayor to World Business Chicago.
Donald Edwards $241,600 Mayoral appointee to World Business Chicago and Chicago Park District.
Lettuce Entertain You $236,850 Partner in restaurants at O’Hare International Airport.
Groupon $231,200 CEO Eric Lefkofsky appointed to World Business Chicago; co-chair of Emanuel-supported Chicago Ideas Week.
JMB companies $191,900 Neil Bluhm, Judd Malkin. Control JMB Realty, Bluhm’s Walton St. Capital gets city pension business
Teamsters $184,700 Emanuel labor rule changes hurt other unions, left Teamsters largely unscathed.
David Helfand $180,900 Real estate executive, now with Equity Group Investments, major holder of Chicago real estate.
Chopper Trading $173,300 Emanuel appealed to regulators to ease commodities futures trading rules for firms like Chopper.

 

Other notable donors include:

  • $160,000 from Joe Mansueto, the “CEO of Morningstar, which has contract with Chicago Public Library.”  [86]
  • $137,000 from United Airlines, in which United Executives were  “appointed to World Business Chicago; jobs and headquarters announcements.”[87]
  • $ 127,600 from AT&T received a “City telecommunications contract. Donations from AT&T Illinois Employee PAC.”[88]
  • $52,000 from Comcast, “Emanuel supported Comcast merger with Time-Warner Cable in letter to FCC.”[89]
  • $25,600 from Jimmy John’s to “get various permits for business in Chicago.”[90]
  • $20,000 from System Development Integration, the company that got the “get various permits for business in Chicago.”[91]

Other Alleged Pay-to-Play

Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Deborah Quazzo to the Chicago Board of Education, “records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show” that “Quazzo’s companies have gotten an additional $2.9 million in Chicago Public Schools business in the year and a half since the millionaire venture capitalist joined the board.”[92] Quazzo says, “she wasn’t aware that her companies’ business with CPS has tripled since she took office” and that “she sees no conflict of interest,” even though “her companies’ business with CPS has tripled since she took office.”[93] One of Quazzo’s companies reportedly cut its prices so its bills to CPS fell just below the $25,000 threshold that would require mayoral approval.[94]

Leveraging Obama Administration Connections

In one alleged special interest deal, days after the U.S. Justice Department announced a suit against the American Airlines-US Airways merger: “Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a letter to the agency, arguing that the “combination of American Airlines and US Airways creates a better network than either carrier could build on its own.” The next day, “Mr. Emanuel met with the bosses of the two airlines, then Mr. Obama and then his transportation secretary.”[95] A ProPublica analysis of email records linked “discussions of the merger to discussions of a plan to modernize Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport” and suggested that Emanuel “might have been seeking the airlines’ help in moving that plan forward.”  [96] A few months later “several American Airlines executives, including the chief executive, donated to his re-election campaign.” Ultimately the “Obama administration [changed] its mind on the American Airlines-US Airways merger,” allowing it to go forward.[97]

References

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Connected Organizations

  1. Obama Administration (Government Agency)
    White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010)
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