A recent contribution to the pro-business group For A Better Chicago is answering more questions about its intentions in the city council races.
Light is slowly starting to shine on the pro-business group For A Better Chicago (FBC), which has quickly become a major player in Chicago's aldermanic races. The political action committee, which raised $855,000 in currently untraceable money, has made its endorsements and is starting to dole out funds from its hefty bank account.
Early donations included $10,000 to both Alds. Anthony Beale (9th Ward) and JoAnn Thompson (16th Ward). Since then, the State Board of Elections (SBOE) has posted three additional donations from the group: $10,000 from the group went to Alds. Deborah Graham (29th Ward), Latasha Thomas (17th Ward), and Carrie Austin (34th Ward).
Until recently, all the money raised by FBC PAC had come from a 501(c)(4) organization also called For A Better Chicago, meaning the donors were impossible to track. But in a February 1 filing with the SBOE, the FBC PAC showed a contribution of $10,000 from David Herro, an investment manager at Harris Associates, LP. Herro was a major player in the 2007 city council races, throwing significant cash at aldermanic candidates supportive of building Wal-Marts. He told the Chicago Tribune that he opposed union-backed proposals to create a living wage for big box stores. (Herro denied that he was only supporting candidates who agreed with his position on Wal-Mart). Herro donated $75,000 to opponents of Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward), who was described as "Wal-Mart's council nemesis" by the Tribune. According to a report in the Chicago Reader, Herro contributed $140,000 to "Wal-Mart friendly candidates."
In addition to his donation to FBC, Herro is personally writing checks to business-friendly candidates in the 2011 elections. To date, he has donated $60,000 to mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, $5,000 to City Clerk candidate Susana Mendoza, and $51,000 to City Council candidates, including FBC-backed Graham, Thomas, and Thompson.
Herro has been a player in state politics as well, throwing big money behind pro-business candidates. He was a strong supporter of Republican Party chairman Andy McKenna's failed bid to win his party's nomination for governor in 2010. In all, Herro donated $75,000 to McKenna. And once McKenna was out, Herro sent $85,000 to Bill Brady, who lost the race for governor to Pat Quinn, and another $100,000 to the House Republican Organization, which is dedicated to electing Republicans to the Illinois House.
In the run-up to the 2007 race, the Tribune noted that Herro's firm owned 9.9 million shares in Wal-Mart. In a prescient quote at the end of the Tribune piece on Herro, he said his involvement in local politics was just beginning and that he hoped to form a group to support "independent-thinking candidates who understand market-based solutions." Herro has apparently found such an organization in FBC.