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Hired Truck Privatized; Mayor Limits Contributions

By vouchey in News on Feb 9, 2005 6:21PM

The State of the City speech is usually a snoozer for Chicago media, a few major programs are announced, and a write up goes into the paper. But this year Mayor Richard M. Daley used the opportunity to make the first two substantive moves against corruption in his administration since the Hired Truck Scandal first began a year ago. First, he will privatize the entire hired truck program and take it out of city control, and second, he has signed an executive order barring campaign contributions to the mayor from companies that do business with the city.

The hired truck program, which provides on-demand trucking services for city contracts, has been dogged by accustions that it is entirely controlled by corrupt city officials. By moving the hired truck program out of direct city control, Daley has at least given it an opportunity to be operated by someone with clean hands. There is reason for hope in that last week Daley temporarily moved his well-respected Library Commissioner, Mary Dempsey over to Chief Procurement Officer, which would oversee the contract to any company running the new Hired Truck program.

How Will City Campaign Contributions Change?
Mayor Richard M. Daley's announcement of new city campaign contributions rules are the first significant change to city campaign contibution laws since persons and companies doing business with the city were limited to contibuting $1,500 a year to any city political office. Here's how things have changed:
  • The new rules only affect the mayor, no other city elected office
  • Any person, company, or company executives doing business with the city is restricted from making contributions
  • Spouses of company owners are banned from contributing
  • Company employees or law firm associates are not restricted
  • It is as yet unclear what "doing business with the city" includes. Are subcontractors included?
  • It is unclear if Political Action Committees are included in the ban
  • The rules fall under an executive order, so they could be rescinded at any time, or abolished under a new mayor
But the past is littered with clean-handed people from Chicago government. One-time wunderkind Bill Abolt was appointed to City budget director two years ago as part of a Daley effort to clean up corruption in the city. Then, when Hired Truck first exploded on the scene, the first to catch the blame and lose his job was Abolt. Recently, when it was found that Jim Duff had a sub-contract with a Kansas City trucking company to move road salt, the Kansas City company caught the blame and was barred from doing business with the city. In both cases, there was little effort to find the real root of the problem.

The Mayor's ban on political contributions is also interesting. As of January 1, 2005, Daley had over $3 million in his campaign account, and his staff claim $1 million of it came from city contractors. While the ban will certainly affect his ability to raise money for his campaign, it certainly isn't the only campaign account he controls. It will be worth noticing how the Hispanic Democratic Organization does in the future, as well as the campaign accounts of his brother, County Commissioner John P. Daley. Also, it would be interesting to see if new PACs pop up, with the sole purpose of contributing from contractors to the Mayor ("City Contractors for Mayor Daley").