CHICAGO — As more endorsements came in for both Chicago mayoral candidates, they two argued about the use of “dark money” in the race that is now only three weeks away.
Dark money, a shadowy kind of campaign contribution, has become a dirty phrase in politics.
Lori Lightfoot accepted a $40,000 campaign donation from a group called Change Chicago, and Toni Preckwinkle raised questions about the contribution.
“Historically, in our state and in our country, the dark money has come from the most conservative the most reactionary part of the political spectrum,” Preckwinkle said. “I think it’s disturbing that someone who would describe themselves as a progressive would take dark money.”
Dark money comes from so-called “social welfare” groups set up under the federal tax code. The rules allow those groups to conceal the original sources of the money. Preckwinkle said it contradicted Lightfoot’s campaign slogan of shedding light on corruption in politics.
“That was a contribution that happened four or five months ago. This isn’t a new story. I know the Preckwinkle campaign is desperate to try to do something to stop the momentum that’s building,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said she opposes the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision which recognized corporations as having the same free speech rights as people and opened the door to dark money in politics.
“We’re playing the cards we’re dealt, if you look at my campaign out of all the 14, and president Preckwinkle included, I’m the only one who’s had a robust small donor program. that’s it. I’m the only one,” Lightfoot said.
Change Chicago is not affiliated with Lightfoot and appears to be a progressive group. She called Preckwinkle’s focus on the donation a political distraction.
“I’m not going to be distracted by the nonsense that comes out of the Preckwinkle campaign out of fear and desperation that their moment is slipping away from them,” Lightfoot said.
Also on Thursday, the candidates discussed each other's momentum and support in the race. From working people to politicians, both candidates are looking for support all over the city.
Preckwinkle walked the picket line with striking Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians and also touted the endorsement of the Teamsters Union Local Council 25 which represents 100,000 workers.
But across town, a major labor organization was singing a different tune. The Chicago Laborers District Council, which represents a variety of union workers, threw its support behind Lightfoot.
Lightfoot also got a key endorsement from former candidate Gery Chico who helped bolster Lightfoot’s support in predominately Hispanic and Latino wards.
“I hope so, that’s the idea, that people would look to individuals who ran before, who have some following to be able to help pull out the vote for the candidate you’re endorsing in the second round,” Chico said.
“I think what that endorsement says is — and the other endorsements like this one today is they recognize we have to have change, and i am the only one of the two that truly represents change,” Lightfoot said.
Chico is the third former mayoral candidate to endorse Lightfoot – joining Willie Wilson and Paul Vallas.
Preckwinkle dismissed the endorsements.
“You know, we’re going across the city to look for support from all of our voters. We’re going to continue that effort to go to community after community, to ask people for their help and support to share the message of my accomplishments and my vision for the city,” she said.
But with a list of endorsements, positive polls, Lightfoot is claiming momentum in the race.
“This is our moment. This is a real opportunity to bring forth that kind of change and I think people are enthusiastic about the prospect of having a completely different city government,” she said.
The election will be held on April 2.