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Mar 19 / Neal

Graham Mailer Attacks Taliaferro: A Closer Look

Alderman Deborah Graham’s campaign is going negative.  Three mailers were recently sent to neighborhood residents attacking challenger Chris Taliaferro for his ownership and participation in a law firm and his campaign contributions.   The mailers make a number of allegations which would benefit from further investigation.

The mailers allege Taliaferro will “be a part-time alderman who will keep making money for his private law firm” will alderman.  The mailer cites an IVI-IPO questionnaire in which Taliaferro wrote he will spend “a minimum of 45 hours weekly” on aldermanic duties and “will transfer from the day to-day managerial and operational demands of my law firm and transition into a more management role.” Mr. Taliaferro will also take a leave of absence from his position in the Chicago Police Department according to his campaign manager.    (Ald. Graham did not submit an IVI-IPO questionnaire.)

The ability of a person to have a position or stake in a private enterprise and hold an elected office is a good question.  Many of Chicago’s alderman and Illinois representatives and senators do have a law practice or other interests in private business. Our own state Sen. Don Harmon, and Alderman Graham benefactor, is a partner at the law firm Burke, Burns and Pinelli, LTD.  Rep. Michael Madigan is a senior partner in his own firm and Alderman Ed Burke represents clients in property tax appeals.  Clearly there is a precedent here for having a private business while serving as an elected official.

The mailers further contend that Mr. Taliaferro will use his clout so his law firm Nexus Legal Group, P.C. will “make big money”.   According to Mr. Taliaferro’s campaign manager the firm “practices family law: adoptions, divorces and wills. What does the city do that he could steer to his law firm?”  Here again we can compare Chris Taliaferro to Sen. Don Harmon, President Pro Tempore, of the Illinois Senate.  Sen. Harmon “practices in the areas of corporate and municipal law serving both private and public sector clients.”  Additionally he deals with “land use and zoning matters”.  Does this mailer imply Sen. Harmon uses his public office for personal gain? The areas of law which he practices are more suited to private gain from public office than adoptions, divorces and will.

Ald. Graham herself received wages from another job while serving in the Illinois General Assembly from 2003-2010.    While earning more than $60,000 per year and receiving a $111 per day stipend as a state representative she also earned a salary while employed by the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

Finally the mailer asserts Taliaferro accepted a donation from a pawn shop and downtown contractor.  A $500 donation was made by Crown Royal of 6120 W. North Avenue.  Also, a $1000 donation was made by Infrastructure Engineering.  Mr. Taliaferro’s campaign also received $8,500 from Citizens for Davis (I assume that means Danny Davis) and several contributions from Mr. Taliaferro’s personal savings.

Citizens to Elect Alderman Graham received $1,500 from Crown Royal.  Yes, the same pawn shop which donated $500 to Taliaferro.

Ald. Graham too has received contributions from a variety of sources.  In this election cycle alone a $1,500 donation was made by PLS Financial Services whose business includes check cashing and title loans. A $1,500 donation was made by downtown construction company H. W. Lochner, Inc.  A $1,000 contribution from Prestige Food and Liquors of 5439 Madison St. Also, a $1000 contribution from the owner of Sunset Liquors at 5921 W. Division St.   Liquor seems to favor Graham.  The Associated Beer Distributors gave $2,500 and even Anheuser-Busch gave $1000.  Infamously Ald. Graham received a $2,000 donation from convicted drug dealer Frederick “Juicy” Sims prior to Sims receiving a six-figure public grant for a liquor store on Madison.

Citizens to Elect Alderman Graham received more than $50,000 in contributions from Sen. Harmon this year alone.

Chicago politics is a rough game and if you get into it you have to know you will get a little roughed up.  It’s up to the citizens of Chicago to look closely at all campaign advertising. Let us encourage both candidates to present their visions for Galewood and Austin and their plan for achieving that vision.

(Ald. Graham and Sen. Harmon were contacted regarding this article and did not responded prior to publishing).

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