By Erick Johnson
With the aldermanic elections just over four months away, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), on Friday, October 12, announced that he will donate a $20,000 campaign donation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to several community organizations.
The announcement was made at Chatham’s iconic Captain Hard Times restaurant, where Sawyer said he will give $2,000 each to 10 community organizations that have anti-violence initiatives and job training programs in his ward.
The groups include Antonio’s Response; P.E.A.C.E. Center; Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE); Think Outside Da Block; Latanya and the Youth Of Englewood; My Block, My Hood, My City; Breaking Bread; Robert’s House; Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change (ECCSC); and Replace Guns with Hammers.
“I talked to my community organizations and asked them, ‘What’s the best way to use this type of money?’ This is what they came up with,” Sawyer said.
On Wednesday, October 10, Sawyer was among two dozen mayoral allies whom Emanuel awarded $20,000 checks at a breakfast at the 312 restaurant across from City Hall. In all, the mayor reportedly dished out $500,000 in campaign donations to the aldermen. The mayor said the checks were to help fund the aldermen’s reelection campaign.
Sawyer and all the city’s aldermen are up for reelection on February 26, 2019. The son of former Chicago mayor Eugene Sawyer, Ald. Sawyer seeks his third term in office. According to campaign finance reports, Sawyer has just $68,122.40 in his campaign war chest to spend.
Sawyer acknowledged that campaign donations from Emanuel may be detrimental to aldermen who served wards where the mayor is unpopular.
“The reality is, my ward is 98 percent Black and some of my constituents don’t really have a super favorable opinion of Rahm Emanuel. We looked at that…and thought the best use of these funds were to support organizations in need of funding,” he said.
The Chicago Crusader requested a list of the aldermen who attended the breakfast to collect their $20,000 check. The mayor’s office has not yet responded to the Crusader’s request and that of other news organizations.
The Chicago Tribune reported that one of the mayor’s strongest allies, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward), also received a $20,000 check, but Austin has not said publicly what she plans to do with the campaign donation. She had a deadline Friday, October 12 to report the donation to the Illinois State Board of Elections, which requires candidates to report donations 48 hours after they are made.
At the press conference in Chatham, Sawyer was asked that as Chairman of the Black Caucus if he would encourage the other Black aldermen to follow his lead. He said that decision was up to them.
Black aldermen who are known allies of the mayor have drawn criticism from activists who have grown disillusioned with the political establishment after a video emerged in 2015, showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Emanuel, who was accused of keeping the video under wraps as he successfully courted the Black vote to get reelected in 2015, announced last month that he would not seek a third term at City Hall. Black aldermen have been accused of supporting the mayor while being silent in their role of the alleged cover up. Their fate will be determined by voters next year, nearly two years after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was crushed in the March 2016 primary months after she drew widespread criticism for waiting 13 months to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder for shooting McDonald 16 times in 2014. Van Dyke on October 5 was jailed immediately after he was convicted of second-degree murder and found guilty on 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. His sentencing is October 31.
The $20,000 checks came one week after one week after a Crusader investigative story that reported on a group of Black aldermen who took thousands of dollars in campaign donations in 2015 to help the mayor get reelected before they approved a $5 million settlement to the family of slain teenager McDonald eight days later.