Chicago Mayor Refuses to Return Trump's Donation From 6 Years Ago

by | November 2, 2016

By John Byrne and Hal Dardick

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's campaign Tuesday said the mayor won't return a $50,000 campaign contribution from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The question arose after the City Council voted to remove the remaining honorary "Trump Plaza" sign outside the GOP nominee's eponymous River North tower on Wabash Avenue in retaliation for his comments on Chicago violence and immigration in general. The other sign was stolen.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, who represents downtown and led the drive to remove the sign, had pledged to return the $5,000 Trump contributed to his campaign fund in 2010, prompting the question of whether Emanuel would do the same with the money his campaign received in December 2010 during his first run for mayor.

"That was six years ago," Emanuel said when asked if he would return the money.

"I have made the point, I've spoken up," the mayor said when asked why he wouldn't return it. "There's a point there. I'll take a look at it. I haven't really thought about it."

Emanuel said he would "look into it." Later Tuesday, Emanuel campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco sent a statement. "We're not going to put money from a 5-year-old donation back into Donald Trump's pocket today, and we're not going to stop denouncing everything he says," the statement read.

After the council vote, Reilly said he expected the sign to come down "within the next several days. I don't know if that will occur before the election or not."

Asked what the city would do with the street sign, Reilly responded: "We'll discuss what to do with it with the mayor. We may even just melt it down. We'll repurpose it for somebody who deserves an honor."

In other action at Tuesday's City Council meeting:

--An alderman who is a former cop and represents many current officers was the lone dissenting vote on paying $2 million to settle a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by two police officers who said they were blackballed for investigating corrupt colleagues.

That vote spares Emanuel from having to testify in the case brought by Officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria, who agreed earlier this year to settle on the day the trial was to begin with the mayor as a potential witness.

Voting against the settlement was Ald. Anthony Napolitano, whose 41st Ward on the Northwest Side is home to many police officers. He said he does not know whether or not the two officers faced retaliation but is basing his vote on what he heard from his onetime colleagues.

"What I'm hearing from officers on the street ... seems to be a lot different from what I'm told here," Napolitano said. "I just don't think that this is just two people that were blackballed. I think there's a lot more to this story than is being said."

Spalding and Echeverria worked secretly with the FBI for two years trying to build a case against a crew run by Sgt. Ronald Watts, who shook down drug dealers for protection money and pinned false cases on those who wouldn't pay. Watts and another officer were convicted in federal court and sent to prison.

But instead of promotions and praise, Spalding and Echeverria alleged in their federal whistleblower lawsuit, they were labeled as "rats" by superiors, given less desirable jobs and told that fellow police officers wouldn't back them up on the street.

--Aldermen voted to amend the rules for peddlers outside Wrigley Field in a way that shores up the ban on the sale of non-team-authorized goods on the sidewalks flanking the ballpark. That move is in response to a lawsuit by the longtime seller of Chicago Baseball magazine, who has accused the city of violating his First Amendment rights to free speech.

--Emanuel introduced an ordinance to give contract bid advantages to firms based in the city that hire mostly Chicagoans, with even bigger preferences for firms that hire from economically disadvantaged areas.

(c)2016 the Chicago Tribune