City ethics watchdogs have uncovered enough evidence to suspect yet another instance of improper lobbying of Chicago officials, an issue that came to light following settlement of a Better Government Association lawsuit over Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s personal email accounts.
Since the December release of emails from the mayor’s personal email accounts, the Chicago Board of Ethics has voted to send letters of suspected lobbying violations to 15 individuals and the companies whose interests they sought to further with city officials.
Board members voted to dismiss one of those cases in its entirety — 33 days after board members publicly disclosed the case. No specific details were disclosed but in an interview after the meeting Executive Director Steve Berlin said the parties successfully demonstrated they didn’t engage in lobbying.
The fate of the individuals and companies in the other cases will be decided at future board meetings.
With one exception, the board has not made public names of those involved or discussed details of the activity in question. So far, $92,000 in fines have been paid by Uber after onetime official David Plouffe emailed Emanuel in 2015 seeking help for the ride hailing giant in implementing new airport service.
Plouffe, a former official in the Obama White House, did not register as a lobbyist with the city until months after he lobbied the mayor.
Board Chairman William Conlon thanked news organizations for their part in pushing for the release of emails and their investigations. The Board of Ethics doesn’t have the power to investigate so if emails hadn’t been made public and reporters hadn’t dug deeper, ethics violations would have gone unpunished.
As part of an agreement with the BGA, the city in December released more than 3,000 pages of emails that showed Emanuel routinely using personal accounts to conduct city business. The mayor and city did not admit wrongdoing, but the lawsuit had alleged that Emanuel turned to personal email to evade open records law transparency requirements.
Many of those emails revealed movers and shakers in the city’s business community making personal pleas for help to the mayor or others in his administration.