Morning Spin: Emanuel’s latest campaign report adds $20,000 to his legal spending tally

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign has spent $89,000 on legal fees since a pair of open records lawsuits were filed against him in the fall of 2015, including $20,000 he spent in the first two months of this year, campaign records show.

The mayor’s most recent quarterly campaign finance report showed him paying $20,000 to Forde Law Offices, where his personal attorney Michael K. Forde is a partner. Emanuel has spent a total of $80,000 with Forde since the lawsuits were filed and another $9,000 with Mayer Brown.

The Chicago Tribune sued Emanuel and his office in September 2015, alleging the mayor had violated the state’s open records law by refusing to release communications about city business he conducted through personal email accounts and text messages. The lawsuit sought to have him declared in violation of the Illinois Local Records Act for failing to preserve emails and text messages he sent or received while doing city business. A month later, the Better Government Association sued Emanuel, also alleging he had conducted government business on personal email accounts.

The BGA settled its lawsuit with Emanuel in December, and the Tribune lawsuit remains ongoing. As part of a settlement with the BGA, Emanuel directed Forde to go through his emails and forward messages in which he conducted or was contacted about public business to his City Hall office. The BGA, however, asked to reopen its lawsuit last month, alleging the mayor and his attorneys did not turn over all the information called for in the settlement.

The $89,000 does not include additional expenditures the city’s Law Department likely has spent on outside counsel and staff hours in the cases.

Since November 2016, when Emanuel was preparing to settle the BGA lawsuit, his official calendar shows him visiting Forde’s law offices on West Washington Street eight times — each either an hourlong lunch or late afternoon meeting.

The open records lawsuits don’t mark the first time the mayor has spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on legal fees. Emanuel also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys as part of his legal fight to get on the 2011 ballot amid questions about his Chicago residency.

All told, Emanuel’s campaign fund has spent over $1 million with law firms. (Bill Ruthhart)

 

What’s on tap

*Mayor Emanuel’s schedule wasn’t available.

*Gov. Bruce Rauner will address the 50th Annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the morning and visit Earth Friendly Products in Addison in the afternoon.

 

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