Developers, builder groups pour money into Lightfoot campaign ahead of runoff

Lightfoot received $815K in real estate industry donations since the February election, compared to $137K for Preckwinkle

Mar.March 26, 2019 09:05 AM

Lori Lightfoot and construction in River North (Credit: Facebook and iStock)

Before the Feb. 26 election for mayor, few denizens of the Chicago real estate world knew much about attorney Lori Lightfoot, and fewer supported her candidacy. Even Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, far from an industry favorite, had received nearly 10 times as much money as Lightfoot in large contributions from brokers, developers and building trade groups.

What a difference a month makes.

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Between Feb. 27 and March 21, real estate industry donors plowed $815,500 in contributions of $1,000 or more into Lightfoot’s campaign, comprising some 28 percent of her fundraising total since the election, according to an analysis of campaign donations by The Real Deal. At the same time, Preckwinkle received just over $137,000 from donors affiliated with the industry.

The two candidates have laid out similar positions on development and property taxes: Both propose raising the real estate transfer tax on high-end properties, and both say they would hike affordable housing requirements for developers seeking zoning changes. But Preckwinkle supports lifting the state’s ban on rent control, a policy Lightfoot came out against last week.

Realtor groups decided they won’t endorse or donate to either candidate. And brokers have largely kept their wallets shut, splitting just $17,000 in large donations among the two candidates since the election.

But many of the building trade unions that previously lined up behind state Comptroller Susana Mendoza before the February election appear to have picked a new favorite in Lightfoot.

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LiUNA Chicago Laborers’ District Council PAC donated $500,000 to Lightfoot’s campaign on March 20, following a $40,000 donation from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on March 15. Both groups previously supported Mendoza, who endorsed Lightfoot herself on Saturday.

But Preckwinkle scored a $50,000 donation on March 14 from the Finish Trades of Chicago, which also had backed Mendoza.

Lightfoot has received $163,500 in large contributions from developers and commercial property owners during the runoff race, compared to just $9,000 in donations to Preckwinkle.

Lightfoot landed a $100,000 contribution on March 1 from philanthropist Leslie Bluhm, daughter of JMB Realty co-founder Neil Bluhm. Leslie Bluhm identified herself in state records as a JMB employee. A foundation run by Judd Malkin, the other co-founder of JMB, donated $20,000 to Lightfoot’s campaign March 15.

Prairie Management Group founder Gordon Segal donated $10,000 to Lightfoot’s campaign, and Brinshore Development principal Richard Sciortino donated $5,000. Fifield Development co-CEO Steven Fifield, a vocal critic of the city’s affordable housing requirements, donated $5,000 to Lightfoot on March 20.

Likewise, the largest individual real estate donation received by Preckwinkle’s campaign since February was a $4,000 contribution on March 20 from South Side property manager Aaron Collard. It came exactly six months after Collard donated $2,500 to Lightfoot’s campaign on Sept. 20, the same day Preckwinkle announced her candidacy.

Affordable housing developers Daniel Levin of Habitat Companies and Peter Holsten of Holsten Development, who together donated nearly $50,000 to Preckwinkle’s campaign last year, have not followed up with more cash since the election. Neither has the Ohio-based SMART Hotels, which donated $12,500 leading up to the February election.

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