Synchronized Cronyism: Emanuel, Tomczak, Pfleger, Trotter Come Together for Chicago’s “Clean Break”
In a completely overlooked news story from election night, no one in the local broadcast or print media made the connection between two separate stories that were making news simultaneously. While Emanuel supporters were celebrating their candidate‘s victory, a vaguely familiar name from Rahm’s best forgotten past resurfaced in Will County. Jeff Tomczak was defending a client charged in a fatal drunk driving accident which was being tried in Joliet.
Jeff Tomczak is, of course, the son of Donald Tomczak, a former high ranking deputy superintendent in Chicago Water Department. The senior Tomczak ended his career serving time in federal prison as a result of his corrupt election activities. Donald Tomczak was instrumental in securing Rahm Emanuel’s election to Congress in 2002.
Two years earlier, in 2000, Tomczak’s political operatives expanded their field of operations beyond the Chicago city limits and the boundaries of Cook County. Setting their sights upon Joliet, the county seat of Will County, the Water Department crew succeeded in electing Jeff Tomczak as the State’s Attorney. Interestingly, Jeff Tomczak ran as a “Republican” challenger to his former boss, the long time Democratic State’s Attorney, James Glasgow. In a 2004 rematch, Glasgow regained his former post. Tomczak endured some bad press when he carelessly neglected to renew his attorney’s registration during his term as the top county prosecutor.
In 2002, Donald Tomczak recruited another army of political precinct workers to cover the 5th Congressional District on behalf of Rahm Emanuel. The incumbent, Rod Blagojevich, was leaving Congress to seek the governorship and he encouraged Emanuel to succeed him in the United States House of Representatives. A good field organization was an imperative since, as the long time suburban resident, Emanuel had little or no recognition in the district.
Emanuel, who prides himself on being a master of details, has claimed repeatedly that he was wholly ignorant of who was working the precincts on his behalf during the 2002 campaign and, in any event, he does not personally condone political patronage corruption. Of course, it is one thing to be personally opposed to corruption and another thing to reject the benefits of such corrupt activities.
Gerald Wesolowski revealed that Water Department employees received promotions and pay raises in return for working on campaigns, including those of Mayor Daley and Emanuel. Rahm has continued to deny knowing the patronage workers who were pounding the pavements on his behalf, but some have come forward and indicated that most certainly knew him and had met with him during the 2002 campaign.
Of course, none of the mainstream media was interested in following up on this story. It was old news in the same way that Emanuel’s political apprenticeship at Illinois Public Action, an activist organization headed by Robert Creamer, the husband of US Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-9), who was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to a prison term, Emanuel’s curious tenure on the scandal plagued Freddie Mac board of directors, which prompted the Obama administration to deny Freedom of Information Act requests to release correspondence and minutes relating to the time of Emanuel’s service on the board, and his phenomenally successful career change to investment banking after departing the Clinton White House with no prior banking experience were stale issues deemed not newsworthy.
As the Emanuel transition team prepares for the inauguration, the mayor-elect is under subpoena as a potential witness in the corruption trial of his former political ally, Rod Blagojevich. Many Chicago politicians have left office under an ethical cloud, but Emanuel is unique in that he will be assuming office with considerable baggage. Thus far, he has been a nimble dancer and avoided being tripped up.
The Numbers Racket
Having spent an estimated $11.8 million dollars in the recently concluded Chicago mayoral race, Emanuel received one of the lowest vote totals of any winning Chicago mayoral candidate in the past ninety-two years. Based upon the final results, Emanuel spent roughly $36.16 for every vote that he received on February 22, 201. Most of the money spent helped pave the way for his election by promoting voter apathy.
Initial reports incorrectly stated that Emanuel received fewer votes than Richard M. Daley polled in the 2003 election, but the final canvass conducted by the Chicago Board of Elections increased Emanuel’s final tally slightly to 326,331. Daley received 324,551votes in 2003.
Based upon the first available returns, several media outlets prematurely announced that Emanuel’s total vote was the lowest vote total of any winning candidate in ninety-two years. References were made to the municipal general election of 1919. Revised vote totals allowed Rahm Emanuel to narrowly avoid this dubious distinction by an eyelash or two, but, given the massive expenditures undertaken by his campaign, it is an unimpressive victory that hardly can be considered a mandate in light of the lackluster quality of the opponents that he faced. Four of the opponents were woefully under financed. Emanuel’s most credible opponent, Gery Chico, the runner up, had never held an elected office before. Most of Chico’s considerable governmental experience had been the result of a series of mayoral appointments to various unelected positions. In some respects, although Emanuel had served three terms in Congress, after being initially elected in a 2002 campaign that relied upon corrupt electioneering practices that sent Tomczak and a few other city employees to prison, like Chico, Emanuel is better known on account of the appointed positions which he has held.
When a several news outlets reported upon these dismal statistics, none bothered to clarify the fact that considerably more Chicagoans actually went to the polls to cast their ballots in the 1919 mayoral contest than was the case this year. There were a total of six mayoral candidates in the 1919 municipal general election: the three major candidates included the incumbent mayor, William Hale Thompson, the then current Cook County Clerk, Robert M. Sweitzer, the sitting Cook County State’s attorney, Maclay Hoyne, plus three different third party candidates. The Republican incumbent, Thompson, was reelected with 259,828 votes, as the two Democrats, Sweitzer and Hoyne, running for mayor as an independent, split the Democratic party vote (Sweitzer, the protege of Boss Roger Sullivan, received 238,206 votes, losing the mayoralty to Thompson for the second consecutive time, while Hoyne tallied 110,851 votes).
Given the voter apathy this year, Emanuel secured the mayoralty by appealing to roughly one out of every five of the city’s registered voters. Approximately 57.7% of Chicago’s 1,406,037 registered voters chose to sit out the mayoral election. The total mayoral vote cast was 590,391 Based upon the recent census figures, which showed a decrease it the city’s population, the current population of Chicago is roughly comparable to the size of the city in 1920. In summary, over 100,000 more Chicagoans took part in the 1919 mayoral election as compared to Emanuel’s 2011 “landslide.”
Send in the Clowns
During the challenges to his residency status and the campaign, Emanuel labored to behave himself. Now, that the election results have been certified, he has relaxed his guard and allowed his inner radical self to exhale. If selecting former State Representative Judy Erwin, who was guilty of various ethics violations, to serve on his transition team was not embarrassing enough, Emanuel compounded his errors by naming Father Michael Pfleger and former Fire Commissioner Cortez Trotter to his team of advisors.
The controversial Pfleger is the pastor of St. Sabina’s Church and has been repeatedly caused difficulties for his Catholic superiors, including Cardinal Francis George, who temporarily suspended Pfleger from the ministry for two weeks in 2008. The radical priest had appeared at the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ and mocked presidential campaign Hillary Rodham Clinton during a guest sermon. A year earlier, Father Pfleger had threatened to “snuff out” the owner of a suburban gun store during a raucous protest march and demonstration that also featured Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Former Fire Commissioner Cortez Trotter was criticized by the Department of Homeland Security for having one of the worst interagency emergency communications systems in United States. Returning to the private sector, Trotter was one of the minority contractors on the much maligned LAZ parking deal which may have effectively ended Richard M. Daley’s mayoral career. Trotter was also involved with the criminal embezzler, David Hernandez. Two months ago, Hernandez pleaded guilty to charges of operating a Ponzi scheme in the failed Chicago Sports Web venture.
These are the best and the brightest? What was Rahm Emanuel thinking when he chose these individuals?
Daniel J. Kelley is a contributor to “The Chicago Daily Observer.”
For some irony, see Crain’s Wants “Clean Break”, Endorses Entrenched Insider Emanuel