Ethics Board Urges Chicago City Council to Tighten Rules That Would Allow Enforcement of a Ban on Lobbyists Giving Campaign Cash to Mayors

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Chicago’s ethics ordinance should be tightened to allow a ban on lobbyists sending campaign cash to Chicago mayors to be enforced, the Chicago Board of Ethics urged the Chicago City Council.

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The recommendation followed the unanimous decision on Monday by the Chicago Board of Ethics to dismiss an enforcement action against a City Hall lobbyist who donated to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign fund.

Five months ago, the board unanimously found that a lobbyist violated a 2011 executive order issued by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel by contributing to Johnson’s campaign.

That executive order sought to ban those found to have violated that order from re-registering as a lobbyist, who are entitled to press city officials on behalf of their actions.

Four lobbyists — former Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward); John Dunn, a former aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley; Michael Cassidy and Anthony B. Bruno — contributed a combined $2,200 to Johnson’s campaign account, Friends of Brandon Johnson. Those contributions were first reported by the Chicago Tribune

Johnson has returned all of those contributions, said Christian Perry, the spokesperson for his political committee.

An attorney for the lobbyist found to have violated the executive order challenged the board’s determination, arguing that it was no longer in effect — or if it was, the Ethics Board had no authority to enforce the ban on registered lobbyists contributing to candidates for mayor.

That prompted the Ethics Board to ask the city’s Law Department to weigh in on the dispute, which asked Chicago-based law firm Jones Day to decide the issue.

In that opinion, Jones Day attorney Bethany Biesenthal determined that executive orders remain in effect even after the mayor who issued them leaves office but found that it would require a change in city law for the Ethics Board to have the authority to hold lobbyists accountable for it by banning them from working as a lobbyist at City Hall.

The Ethics Board unanimously urged the Chicago City Council to amend the city’s Governmental Ethics Ordinance to give it the power to enforce the ban.

In a separate action, the Board of Ethics voted unanimously to fine Moore $500, the minimum fine under the city’s ethics law, for failing to report the $250 contribution he made to Johnson’s campaign account.

Moore, who lost his bid for reelection in 2019 to Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward) did not respond Wednesday afternoon to a request for comment from WTTW News.

The Chicago Sun Times was the first to report that a lobbyist had contributed to Johnson’s campaign, in an apparent violation of the 2011 executive order.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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