Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken more than $59,000 in campaign donations from restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You, Enterprises (LEYE), reports the Chicago Tribune, and then helped LEYE land a deal inside Chicago's O'Hare airport. In March, Obama's former Chief of Staff attended a fundraiser hosted at a restaurant owned by Lettuce Entertain You and he received around $26,000 from the restaurant group's founder Richard Melman and Melman's family. The donations were given in five $5,300 parts because that is the maximum an individual can give under the state law. The other donations to the mayor's re-election fund were given by "people and restaurants tied to Lettuce Entertain You."
A week after receiving the donations from LEYE, Emanuel attended a re-opening ceremony for the terminal at Chicago's O'Hare airport which features many restaurants from LEYE. The Tribune notes that the restaurant group "stands to reap profits from its preferential arrangement at the airport approved by Emanuel's administration." Emanuel's official calendar also shows that the mayor has frequented many of the restaurant's groups eateries: In recent months he attended "at least three events not related to his official duties" at Lettuce Entertain You-owned restaurants. There will also be a fundraiser for Emanuel this Friday at Paris Club, another restaurant owned by the group where fundraisers for Emanuel have been hosted in the past. A campaign spokesperson and a mayor's office representative told the Tribune that the donations were all legal (thanks to some slick maneuvering) and did not violate Emanuel's executive order "banning city contractors from donating to him."
Emanuel is far from the first mayor to gather donations from local restaurants. Washington City Paper reports that D.C mayor Vince Gray was given at least $6,000 in campaign funds from various LLC's associated with the Clyde's Restaurant Group in the last year. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has also been known to take donations from restaurants. The LA Times writes that he received at least $1,000 from LA-based chain Panda Express for his campaign, and Reuters notes that shortly after landing in office he publicly supported a Panda Express deal to open over 250 locations in Mexico.
· Mayor Cashes in with Restaurateur Linked to O'Hare [Chicago Tribune]
· O'Hare's New Terminal 5 to Feature Tortas Frontera, Hub 51, Tocco, Intelligentsia and More [Eater Chicago]
· L.A.'s Mayoral Race Fundraising Passes $3.7 Million [LA Times]
· Which Restaurants Gave Political Donations? [Washington City Paper]
· All Politics Coverage on Eater [-E-]