Lightfoot moves on from vote buying to recruiting students to volunteer for her campaign in exchange for class credit

Posted: January 15, 2023 by John Ruberry in education, elections, News/opinion, politics
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By John Ruberry

America’s worst big city mayor, Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, finds herself in trouble again. 

Last week, Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, reported that Lightfoot’s deputy campaign manager, Megan Crane, sent an email to Chicago Public Schools teachers and City Colleges of Chicago instructors, telling them the campaign was seeking students to volunteer as “externs” for Lightfoot’s reelection effort. “Lightfoot for Chicago is seeking resumes from any volunteer interested in campaign politics and eager to gain experience in the field,” the email read. Later in that message comes a quasi-bribe, “Externs are expected to devote 12hrs/wk to the campaign. Students are eligible to earn class credit through our volunteer program.”

When the email became public, the campaign quickly defended its call for volunteers, avowing in a statement that the request was done “to provide young people with the opportunity to engage with our campaign, learn more about the importance of civic engagement and participate in the most American of processes.”

But in a second statement, the campaign said it would “cease contact with CPS employees” citing an “abundance of caution.”

Finally, a couple of hours later, in a third statement, they finally surrendered. “All campaign staff have been reminded about the solid wall that must exist between campaign and official activities and that contacts with any city of Chicago, or other sister agency employees, including CPS employees,” the campaign said, “even through publicly available sources is off limits. Period.”

Last summer, after Willie Wilson, a gadfly candidate who is running for mayor, gathered a lot of attention for gasoline and grocery giveaways, Lightfoot followed suit with her giveaways. But unlike Wilson’s generosity, the mayor’s handouts were paid for by taxpayers.

Laura Washington, a liberal Chicago Tribune columnist, had this to say back in August in a behind-the-paywall op-ed:

Thanks to an “avalanche” of federal stimulus funds, Lightfoot is “running for reelection armed with a seemingly bottomless gift bag of giveaways that includes everything from gas cards, Ventra cards, bicycles, locks and helmets to more than $1,000-per-household in rebates to defray the cost of security cameras, outdoor motion sensor lighting, cloud storage and GPS trackers to hunt down vehicles in the event of an auto theft or carjacking,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported in June. 

Lightfoot’s “Chicago Moves,” is the city’s $12 million transit response to skyrocketing fuel costs and inflation. It will distribute up to 50,000 prepaid $150 gas cards and 100,000 prepaid $50 transit cards to Chicago residents. 

Earlier this year, Lightfoot pushed through a controversial guaranteed income program for low-income families. The pilot program will provide no-strings-attached $500 payments to 5,000 Chicago families per month for a year. The recipients were chosen through a lottery system.

“By coincidence,” Fox Chicago’s Mike Flannery sarcastically opined this morning on his Flannery Fired Up program, “each [gas and public transit] card had Mayor Lighfoot’s name emblazoned right on it.”

The ACLU of Illinois forcefully condemned the campaign’s call for student volunteers. “It is striking that Mayor Lightfoot presented herself four years ago as a candidate who would eschew the old corrupt patronage ways of Chicago politics,” the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement, “Now her campaign employs practices that harken back to the worst days of the Chicago political machine.”

And the ACLU of Illinois says the call-for-volunteers email may have violated federal law.

Crime has skyrocketed since Lightfoot took office. And it shouldn’t surprise you that Chicago’s population is declining. “The city is dying,” former Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has said at least a couple of times in his Chicago Way podcast.

Lightfoot faces eight opponents in next month’s first round of voting for mayor. In the likely scenario that no candidate achieves a majority in the initial round, the top two candidates face the voters again in April.

In the only opinion poll so far on this race, Lightfoot finished third.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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