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For A Better Chicago
Quick Hit
by Robert Dietz
Mon Mar 21, 2011

Ruling: Pro-Business Group Can Keep Donors Secret

The Illinois State Board of Elections ruled that For a Better Chicago (FBC), the pro-business group that has quickly became a major player in the city's municipal elections, may keep its donors from the public. The ruling means that the $855,000 the FBC raised to aid candidates running for Chicago's City Council will remain a mystery.

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Quick Hit
by dradmin
Thu Mar 3, 2011

46th Ward Candidate Has Ties To Berrios, Pro-Business Groups

Mary Anne "Molly" Phelan and James Cappleman, the two candidates who are vying to replace longtime alderman Helen Shiller, each won the same number of votes on February 22 -- an amazing feat considering there were 11 candidates and nearly 14,000 votes cast. But the economically diverse ward, which is made up almost entirely of the Uptown neighborhood, appears to have two very different candidates to choose from on April 5.

Cappleman is a social worker who lost to Shiller in 2007. He has spoken about the need for economic development in the ward as a tool to combat "aggressive panhandling, public drinking and graffiti." He has also endorsed mixed-income housing, and called for "tax incentives to build affordable housing in census tracts with low poverty rate would make the distribution of this type of housing more equitable across the city."

Phelan is a tax attorney who gave one $500 donation to Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and another $500 to his 31st Ward Democratic Committee campaign. The donations came as new laws have tightened regulations on tax attorneys who give to the assessor, who rules on property tax issues. Phelan is also the candidate chosen by the business community. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce endorsed her campaign and has contributed to her effort. Additionally, Phelan has garnered support from For A Better Chicago funder and Wal-Mart expansion supporter David Herro, who wrote the Phelan campaign a $4,600 check.

Phelan, however, is probably best known in the 46th for organizing Fix Wlison Yard, an organization which filed lawsuits to prevent the Wilson Yard development in large part because of affordable housing units atop a Target and other smaller retail outlets. The development has since opened. Jamiko Rose, executive director of Organization of the North East, told Time Out Chicago that the Fix Wilson Yard initiaitive was nothing more than a ploy to gentrify the neighborhood. Rose said, "This group of residents invested in real estate and saw Wilson Yard as a speedy way to gentrify the neighborhood. Now it’s not happening the way they wanted, so they’re spreading false information. There are fears that people have around poverty and race, and invoking Cabrini-Green definitely plays on those fears."

Quick Hit
by Michael Vanassche
Tue Feb 22, 2011

Number Of The Day: $388,076.38

That's how much money For a Better Chicago PAC has funneled into the city's municipal election as of today, according to State Board of Elections' records. The origin of all that money remains a mystery, except for $10,000 that came from investment banker David Herro, who has ties to shadow conservative groups. An additional $20,000 in donations were made by For a Better Chicago, though it's unclear if the donations were made from the non-profit group, or their political action committee. The money has been handed out to City Council candidates supported by the pro-business group.

And as if that wasn't enough secret money injected into Chicago's elections, a potential total of $408,076.38 accounts for less than half of the $865,000 total the PAC was able to raise, leaving the mysterious interest group with at least $456,923.62 to pass along to their favorite candidates in the upcoming runoff elections on April 5th.

Quick Hit
by Robert Dietz
Fri Feb 4, 2011

For A Better Chicago PAC Funder Has Ties To Shadow Conservative Groups

We now have some idea as to who is funding the secretive pro-business political action committee For A Better Chicago (FBC), which promises to play a big role in Chicago's city council elections this year. David Herro, a mutual fund manager, donated $10,000 to the group, the first such donation that is traceable. It turns out that not only does Herro have a history of donating serious money to aldermanic candidates who will support business interests, such as an expansion of Wal-Mart stores throughout the city, he has also spent big bucks supporting Republican candidates at the federal level through similar shadow groups that use the financial loopholes FBC is exploiting.

According to federal records, Herro gave $190,000 in the weeks leading up to the 2010 elections to the New Prosperity Foundation, which formed in late 2009 and showed serious political power, running ads against Democratic candidates in the Midwest, including Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. A report in the Huffington Post said the New Prosperity Foundation is "classified as a 527, meaning it can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including contributions from corporations." The group's chairmen are Ron Gidwitz, a former GOP candidate for governor in Illinois and a big-time donor to George W. Bush, and Gregory Baise, the head of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, a group that gave heavily to Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady. The New Prosperity Foundation received start-up funds from a trust controlled by a major contributor to the smear group Swift Boat Veterans and POW's for Truth.

New Prosperity wasn't the only Republican group that benefited from Herro's largesse. He also donated $10,000 to American Crossroads, a 527 group founded a year ago by Karl Rove, and its tax-exempt partner Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. American Crossroads is the group that spent millions backing then-U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk in the fall election for U.S. Senate.

Herro overwhlemingly gives to Republicans, including U.S. Reps. from Illinois Robert Schilling, Judy Biggert, Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Robert Dold, and Aaron Schock. In 2007, Herro spent $75,000 on opponents of Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward), a strong proponent of a living wage ordinance for big-box retailers. At the time, the Moore campaign highighted a donation Herro made to the Swift Boat Vets, a political group that smeared Sen. John Kerry's military record during the 2004 presidential campaign.

PI Original
by Robert Dietz
Thu Feb 3, 2011

More Clues About Business PAC's Play In Council Races

A recent contribution to the pro-business group For A Better Chicago is answering more questions about its intentions in the city council races.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Tue Feb 1, 2011

For A Better Chicago Releases Endorsement List

For A Better Chicago, which raised $855,000 in anonymous donations last year, posted its aldermanic endorsements online today. In several races, the selections suggest a battle brewing between labor organizations and business interests.

In the 2nd Ward, for example, current Ald. Robert Fioretti has support from the the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and the Service Employees International Union (whose state council sponsors this website) while the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and FBC are backing Genita Robinson. The chamber and FBC are also with Ald. Howard Brookins, a vocal advocate for Wal-Mart's expansion, in the 21st Ward but SEIU is backing Sheldon Sherman there. The 25th Ward, which covers much of Pilsen and other parts of the Near West Side, breaks down with the chamber and FBC backing long-time Daley ally and current zoning chair Ald. Danny Solis and SEIU endorsing Ambrosio Medrano Jr.

The Chicago Federation of Labor, AFSCME, and SEIU all backed council progressives Ald. Toni Foulkes in the 16th, Ald. Ricardo Munoz in the 22nd Ward, Ald. Rey Colon in the 35th, and Ald. Joe Moore in the 49th, while neither the chamber nor FBC have selected a candidate in those races. The three labor groups also are supporting Marina Faz-Huppert in the 45th Ward, while the chamber and FBC have not endorsed anyone in that Northwest Side ward. FBC is endorsing 11th Ward Ald. James Balcer; none of the other organizations chose a candidate there.

Elsewhere, there appears to be more consensus. In the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 19th, 27th, 28th and 30th wards, the chamber, FBC, Chicago Labor Federation, SEIU, and AFSCME are endorsing the same candidates.