Limits on developer campaign contributions left out of City Council ethics reforms

The reforms come in the wake of scandals involving aldermen and developers

Alderman Michele Smith (43rd) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Credit: Getty Images, Wikipedia and iStock)
Alderman Michele Smith (43rd) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Credit: Getty Images, Wikipedia and iStock)

Limits on political contributions from developers and other special interest groups were left out of a series of ethics reforms advanced by a City Council committee Wednesday.

The reforms approved by the council’s ethics committee broaden city inspector general Joseph Ferguson’s powers to investigate aldermen, and it bars city employees from representing private clients in cases “that could affect the relative tax burden” on city residents, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Chicago Board of Ethics had recommended limiting political contributions from developers and labor unions, but those reforms didn’t make it into the package approved Wednesday.

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The new rules also would raise the penalty for “high-level” ethics violations from $2,000 to $5,000, well shy of the $20,000 recommended by the ethics board.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot championed the changes amid the ongoing federal corruption case against Alderman Ed Burke (14th), who was indicted in May on charges he extorted developers and other business owners into hiring his private law firm. The mayor picked Alderman Michele Smith (43rd) to head the ethics committee and pass the reforms.

Lightfoot signed an executive order on her first day in office to curtail the practice of “aldermanic privilege,” which traditionally gives aldermen near-unilateral power over licensing and permitting in their own wards. But so far, Lightfoot has left intact aldermen’s powers over zoning decisions.

The reforms now head to the City Council for a final vote Wednesday. [Chicago Sun-Times] — Alex Nitkin