Chicago alderman pushes to cap union donations in city races

Chicago alderman pushes to cap union donations in city races

Chicago Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th ward, is working on an ordinance that would limit the amount unions can donate to a candidate in an election cycle.

Chicago Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, intends to introduce an ordinance limiting campaign contributions from labor unions.

While Villegas planned in April to propose a $1,500 cap, he will wait until May or June to gather “more input” from organized labor, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Villegas says his ordinance would “level the playing field” by treating unions as a special interest the same way businesses and individuals are capped. Villegas said he’s willing to compromise on a higher cap of $5,000.

His ordinance would have major implications for the Chicago Teachers Union, which donated more than $2.2 million to Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s campaign. Unions accounted for 90% of Johnson’s funding.

Johnson wasn’t the only candidate to get significant union donations: U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and former Chicago Public School CEO Paul Vallas each received $1 million from a political action committee on behalf of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

Of Chicago’s 50 City Council members, CTU has donated to 34. That’s two out of every three sitting on the City Council.

Villegas himself had union donations, but on a smaller scale. He received $10,000 from the Teamsters, $7,500 from trade union Local 150, $5,000 from AFSCME and another $5,000 from SEIU Local 1.

“This potentially could hurt me as well, but I see what’s going on here is that you’re having people, regular people that might not have relationships, are being put at a disadvantage, and you have some unions, or special-interest groups that are putting [forward] candidates and funding them.”

Crain’s reached out to unions for comment, but none accepted. New Chicago aldermen and the mayor will be sworn into office May 15.

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