When newly elected 29th Ward Alderman Christopher Taliaferro defeated incumbent Deborah L. Graham during their April 7 runoff election, it sent a tremendous shockwave across the political establishment on the West Side.
Graham, who had name recognition, political connections and limitless capital was thought to be a lock to survive the challenge from a Chicago police officer despite general dissatisfaction among the electorate.
Taliaferro’s stirring victory appeared to be a decisive repudiation of the formidable Chicago political machine. When the D-2 campaign disclosure reports were released shortly after the election, they appeared to support this conclusion.
Friends for Chris Taliaferro raised $23,400 between Jan.1 and March 31 in itemized individual contributions. The Citizens to Elect Deborah L. Graham raised nearly triple that amount, reporting $74,500 in contributions.
The disparity can be gleaned from the number of itemized contributors to each campaign. Taliaferro attracted 41 donors to his campaign, while Graham secured monetary support from 77 donors.
Graham proved to be more politically connected not only throughout the Chicago area, but across the state, while Taliaferro’s operation was comparatively much more limited in its reach and scope.
Of the 41 individual donors for Taliaferro, 32 contributed between $100 and $500, with 13 of them residing on the West Side. Some of these donors included Rev. Ira Acree, the pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church, who contributed $1,000, and community institutions such as the Columbus Park Nursing and Rehab Center, which contributed $2,500 to Taliaferro.
Meanwhile, six of Graham’s donors were located outside of Illinois and 19 were located in Chicago’s downtown area. This reflects the broad reach of Graham’s political base. Her campaign also received donations of $1,000 or more from 44 of its contributors, more than the entire number of contributors to the Taliaferro campaign committee.
Citizens to Elect Deborah L. Graham received $2,500 each from the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois PAC and The Construction & General Laborers District Company of Chicago. The largest contribution was made courtesy of I.M.P.A.C., a group of politically connected developers who donated $17,500 to Graham’s re-election bid.
The donation from I.M.P.A.C. is noteworthy because the organization and its manager, 28th Ward Ald. Jason Ervin, have faced questions from the Board of Elections regarding the organization receiving funds from companies with city contracts. Those dollars were then converted to contributions to the aldermanic campaigns.
Among the 20 donors that have contributed to I.M.P.A.C., one is Safeway Construction, which gave $9,500 to the group. Safeway is part of a development conglomerate that is requesting $1 million in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds from the City Council for a $12 million housing development in Ald. Ervin’s ward.
All totaled, Graham’s election committee received $89,750 in itemized transfers from the monetary stockpiles of their political supporters.
Meanwhile, The Friends of Chris Taliaferro received five itemized transfers, the last three coming from Citizens for [Danny] Davis, totaling $15,000. In the weeks prior to the runoff election, Congressman Davis (D-7th) became a vocal supporter of Taliaferro in the race.
Friends of Chris Taliaferro obtained $10,450 in loans over the course of the campaign. Six of those loans came from the Chicago Police Department, totaling $8,950. Citizens to Elect Deborah Graham received no loans during the quarter.
Debts and Obligations
The Friends of Chris Taliaferro reported a total of 12 itemized debts with a balance of $18,196.25. Of the 12 items listed, 11 were debts that Taliaferro took on himself in order to finance his campaign. Meanwhile, the Citizens for Deborah Graham had fewer items — only eight — but reported over seven times the amount of money owed to creditors ($139,622.94).
Citizens for Deborah Graham owes $14,500 to the Friends of Don Harmon and much of that debt was incurred in the years prior to the most recent election cycle. For example, Citizens still needs to reimburse the Don Harmon committee for a $2,500 loan taken out in 2004.
The largest creditor for Citizens however, is Burton Odelson, James Nally, J. Patrick Hanley and Michael LaVelle, which loaned the committee $165,122.94 in December of 2004 and is still owed $120,122.94 nearly 11 years later.