Newly Released Emails Reveal Emanuel's Clout-Heavy Conversations - NBC Chicago
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Newly Released Emails Reveal Emanuel's Clout-Heavy Conversations

In an April conversation with Griffin, the billionaire urged Emanuel to paint the city’s speed bumps after sustaining $10,000 in damage to his car.

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    A collection of roughly 2,700 pages of e-mails released Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel gives a rare glimpse into the mayor's conversations with high-profile, well-connected individuals, like billionaire Ken Griffin and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. (Published Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016)

    A collection of roughly 2,700 pages of e-mails released Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel gives a rare glimpse into the mayor's conversations with high-profile, well-connected individuals, like billionaire Ken Griffin and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

    In an April conversation with Griffin, the billionaire urged Emanuel to paint the city’s speed bumps after sustaining $10,000 in damage to his car. Griffin, the state's wealthiest man, also decried a shooting near the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, as well as the condition of Chicago’s lakefront bike path.

    “I will look into it,” Emanuel responded, noting that the city’s goal was to separate paths for biking and running.

    Griffin called the path a "disaster," asking how it could be in such bad shape after recently being refinished.

    “Can they accept private funding,” Griffin asked. “This is a mess.”

    “Yes why don’t I come with the commissioner present our plans and we can do a lot with you,” Emanuel replied.

    Griffin, a longtime Emanuel donor, has since shelled out $12 million to fund separate bike and pedestrian paths on the lakefront trail, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    The thousands of emails were released as part of a settlement with the Better Government Association, a government watchdog organization, which called the release a "major step forward." The settlement followed a years-long battle with City Hall, which initially claimed the emails did not need to be made public. Still the BGA and Chicago Tribune sued, arguing that public business done on private devices should be released. 

    Among the emails was a 2013 back and forth with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. In that conversation Emanuel inquired about the company moving jobs and facilities to Chicago, but got little response the powerful executive.

    “My Deputy Mayor says we have been contacted by representatives of Amazon about a data center, distribution center and regional marketing center moving to Chicago,” the mayor wrote. “While this is below you, this is very important to me and would like to know if there any chance to set up a phone call with you to discuss?”

    Bezos responded briefly, directing the email to a member of his team “who leads our global fulfillment."

    In a 2015 email exchange with Michael Sacks, one of the mayor’s closest confidants and a top campaign donor, the billionaire complained that Allstate CEO Tom Wilson wouldn’t be relocating 300 jobs to the city.

    “Did we tell Tom Wilson he couldn’t have space somewhere to bring 300 jobs to the city because we were giving or wanted the space to go to someone else,” Sacks asked.

    “Ask Koch,” Emanuel responded, referring to Deputy Mayor Steve Koch. “Not me.”

    “Was told you did it and it was your call,” Sacks said. “Whatever went down that was how it went to Allstate. I am now trying to figure it out to see if it can be saved.”

    The cache of e-mails also includes correspondence with other high-profile individuals, like Gov. Bruce Rauner, political strategist David Plouffe and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, among others.

    In October, Emanuel sent an e-mail blast promoting the city to business owners and media personalities, like CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos and Democratic consultant James Carville, among others.

    David Axelrod, who served alongside Emanuel in the Obama administration, teased the mayor for sending the email during a Chicago Cubs playoff game.

    “You send this out DURING the game,” Axelrod, who hosts a popular CNN podcast, joked.

    “First the game is not the high holidays,” Emanuel responded, claiming he was “still in the office.”

    The rest of the conversation is redacted.

    In 2011, 1871 CEO Howard Tullman reached out to Emanuel offering a “Chocolate Lab puppy” from the PAWS animal shelter and an invite to take in a Cubs game alongside TV host Larry King.

    “No thanks to Larry King,” Emanuel said. “Is the dog pure-bred?”

    Although the dog was a pure breed, Tullman told the Tribune that the mayor didn’t take him up on the offer, the Tribune reports.

    The mayor's emails also include media briefings from his staff and updates on crime and police strategy.

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