Runoff challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has routinely criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel for only looking out for his “cronies,” and doing sweetheart municipal business deals with campaign contributors. “It smells bad,” Garcia said during the debate with Emanuel on Monday.
Well, the County Commissioner’s campaign has yet another ethically dubious business deal orchestrated by the Mayor to criticize. This one not only mixes politics with important city business, but also involves a much more sympathetic and popular character than Ken Griffin. A Chicago Tribune story details the latest city contract-Emanuel campaign contribution combo, and it involves none other than Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the all-time great NBA point guard.
“Last year, the Emanuel-appointed Chicago Board of Education awarded one of Johnson’s companies – SodexoMAGIC – an $80 million contract to provide custodial and facilities management for Chicago Public Schools facilities,” the report reads.
As you may remember, a week before last month’s election, Emanuel and “Magic” held a press conference to announce Johnson and a business partner of his donating $10 million to go to a summer jobs program in Chicago’s inner-city. That looks like the type of quid-pro-quo that could only help Chicago residents, of course.
However, the Tribune reports that “four days after the news conference, the week-old company Johnson formed with partner Mark Walter to fund the jobs program donated $100,000 to Emanuel’s campaign. Last week, with Emanuel still locked in a tough runoff battle for a second term, the company gave Emanuel $150,000.”
So, a year after Emanuel’s Board of Education gave Johnson an $80 million city contract, the NBA legend and entrepreneur formed a company with a business partner and used it to donate a quarter of a million dollars directly to the Mayor’s re-election campaign.
That looks like a pretty worthwhile payback investment for Johnson, though Chicago residents may wonder how good of a deal ones like this are for them. The Tribune report called the Johnson deal “the latest example of a hallmark of Emanuel’s governing style – his deep reliance on political cash from business interests who can count on City Hall or the mayor himself to help them.”
Indeed, a January report from the Trib revealed that of the 103 contributors to Emanuel’s campaign coffers who raised over $14 million through the end of last year, 60 of them received some financial benefit from the mayor directly or his administration. Mayor Emanuel, of course, didn’t invent this dubious way of doing business in Chicago government.
He is, however, quickly becoming a master of it.