By Illinois Review
On Wednesday evening, WTTW News broke a story that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign sent an email to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers on their official city email addresses to encourage students to volunteer on her campaign in exchange for class credit.
Did she break the law?
Under the standard imposed by the US Attorney’s office here in Chicago – an office where the mayor worked from 1996-2002, she did.
The standard for bribery was set in the case of United States v. Giles. This case was decided by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals while Lightfoot worked in the US Attorney’s office prosecuting corruption cases. According to the Giles standard, she’s guilty of attempted bribery.
Lightfoot’s former office has previously argued in high profile trials that a political benefit is now considered a personal benefit and therefore can rise to the level of a bribe. By offering public school children class credit in exchange for doing political work for Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign, the mayor is receiving both a political and personal benefit. According to the Giles case, this constitutes bribery, and that’s a crime.
When Lightfoot campaigned and was elected in 2019, she pledged to end corruption in Chicago. On election night during a speech declaring victory, the Mayor-elect said,
“We can and we will break this city’s endless cycle of corruption.”
But she isn’t ending corruption – she’s expanding it.
How different is this from the old school politics of the Chicago Democratic Machine where the US Attorney’s office sent countless city workers to jail for no-show jobs where political work was done on government time, or because they were being rewarded for their political work by getting raises and promotions in exchange for knocking on doors for Democratic candidates?
That’s precisely how the biggest political boss of all time, Mike Madigan, who she now attacks in political ads, built his political machine. Yet even Madigan didn’t go so far as to ask school children to leave the classroom and go knock on doors for him.
The Mayor may want to think twice about running negative ads attacking her political opponents linking them to Mike Madigan, when she’s outdoing Madigan by using school children for political gain.
School is a place for children to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic. CPS students shouldn’t be asked to leave their studies and critical after school programs to knock on doors for Mayor Lightfoot’s re-election campaign.
It’s no secret that CPS students are struggling – made worse by shutdowns and remote learning. And test scores indicate that CPS students are falling way behind on math and reading skills since the pandemic.
The kids belong in the classroom learning, not in the precincts knocking on doors.
Mayor Lightfoot should know better. The US Attorney’s office, where she once worked, has thrown governors in prison for things less than this.
Urging public school teachers to offer students class credit in exchange for volunteering on the Lightfoot campaign is certainly wrong, and according to Lightfoot herself, it’s criminal.
The U.S. The Attorney’s office can’t selectively choose, nor weaponize this standard to only target one political figure and not another.
Shortly after the story broke last night, Team Lightfoot issued three different statements in less than two hours – indicating that the campaign was in total panic mode.
Initially, a spokesperson for the Lightfoot campaign told WTTW News that the email was “to provide young people with the opportunity to engage with our campaign, learn more about the importance of civic engagement and participate in the most American of processes…done using publicly available contact information.”
A short while later, Lightfoot’s campaign issued a second statement to WTTW, stating the campaign would “cease contact with CPS employees out of an abundance of caution.”
A few hours later, the Lightfoot campaign issued an astonishing third statement to WTTW, stating,
“All [Lightfoot for Chicago] campaign staff have been reminded about the solid wall that must exist between campaign and official activities and that contacts with any city of Chicago, or other sister agency employees, including CPS employees, even through publicly available sources is off limits. Period.”
Although, Illinois Review has no evidence to prove this, the third statement sounds like a statement personally written by a frustrated Mayor, who ended the statement with the word, “period.”
Several people, including mayoral candidate Paul Vallas have called for an independent and joint investigation by the City of Chicago and CPS Inspector Generals to get to the bottom of this scandal.
Lightfoot campaigned on ending corruption. But taking school children out of the classroom and away from their homework to work on her campaign may be criminal, is grossly hypocritical and worst of all, is hurting our children.