Mayor Daley acknowledged Tuesday that he took multiple trips — as he put it, “I don’t remember all of ‘em” — aboard a $31 million jet owned by a non-profit organization under investigation by the IRS and Congress.
Daley changed his story one week after City Hall insisted that a September 2006 trip to Singapore was the mayor’s only flight courtesy of EduCap, a multi-billion student loan charity under the microscope for allegedly abusing its tax-exempt status.
After returning from a week-long Florida vacation, Daley acknowledged that he took more than one EduCap flight and that Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, the principals of the company and its affiliated Academy of Achievement, where first lady Maggie Daley once worked, were “very close friends.”
"I don't remember all of 'em,” the mayor said of his EduCap flights.
As for Catherine and Wayne Reynolds’, he said, “We’re friends with them. Very close friends. ... I’m very proud. I have a good working relationship with them. They’re very nice people.”
A television reporter armed with the flight logs then asked the mayor about an April 2005 flight he allegedly took aboard the EducCap jet to celebrate his birthday in Cabo, Mexico.
“Yes, a private visit,” the mayor said.
The reporter then asked about another 2005 trip — this time from Las Vegas to Van Nuys, Calif.; to attend a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting. The reporter asked about six flights the mayor supposedly took in 28 hours.
“I was not on all of those legs. I was just on one,” he said. Daley then quickly added, “I can’t speak. I don’t have all the facts.”
A May 2005 flight log obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows Daley taking the plane from Monterrey, Calif.; to Van Nuys. Maggie Daley was aboard for four legs with a VIP roster of passengers that included: the Reynolds; now convicted former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and his wife and former White House Chief of Staff Michael Deaver and his wife.
Last week, the the mayor’s office categorically denied a CBS News report that the Daleys took 58 flights over a five-year period ending in 2007 courtesy of the multi-billion student loan charity. The charity is under investigation because of the high interest it charges on charitable student loans and the perks it provides to its CEO.
The EduCap jet, reportedly sold after the IRS launched its investigation, was also used to transport CIA Director Leon Panetta, former FBI Director William Sessions, former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Stevens, the network said.
Wayne Reynolds serves as chairman and CEO of the Academy of Achievement, an organization that unites current and future world leaders for a weekend of seminars that once employed the mayor's wife.
In 2006, Maggie Daley reported earning $100,000 from the Academy of Achievement to sift through student applications and scout conference sites.
Academy of Achievement members include Achbishop Desmond Tutu, who just happened to be visiting Chicago on Tuesday.
After listening to the rapid-fire questions about the mayor’s travel, Tutu was incredulous.
“I just want to say — I can’t believe this,” Tutu said.
The archbishop called the Academy of Achievement a “scintillating range of outstanding people” who are joined for a weekend with young people on track to make “a heckuva difference to the world.”
“This could be part of our strategy with young people and gun violence. … I would hope that is what you would be wanting to concentrate on — please,” Tutu said.
Daley added, “But, in Chicago, the press has to find always negative things. Tha’s how it is.”
Tutu closed by doing something the mayor would never do: blessing the news media.
“Let me hope that my presence will have acted like, you know, I will absolve you and make you holy,” he said.