Just friends? Not in the 43rd Ward, where Smith group admits guilt

1 Feb
Michele Smith

Michele Smith, running for 43rd Ward alderman in Lincoln Park.

By Zoe Barker and Jennifer Schanz

After a relatively calm campaign thus far in Lincoln Park, water in the 43rd Ward is getting murky between retiring Ald. Vi Daley’s organization and one of the candidates seeking to replace her, Michele Smith, the ward’s committeeman.

A hearing before the Illinois State Board of Elections took place Dec. 16, 2010 in response to a complaint by “Friends of Vi Daley” treasurer Barbara Guttman in which she accused “Friends of Michele Smith” of illegally using Daley’s D-2 financial disclosure report to solicit donors.

According to the official proceedings, the complainant, Friends of Vi Daley, alleged that Friends of Michele Smith used three names found on Friends of Vi Daley’s D-2 disclosure—a violation of election statutes.

At the close of the hearing, Richard Means, representing the Smith group, conceded Guttman’s accusation, but stressed that the violation was done unintentionally, by an external consultant who had been let go. “….they didn’t do it intentionally, but they apparently did it. And so we’re ready to take our medicine. We believe that’s the end of the case.”

Rick Bohn, Smith’s current campaign manager, echoed Means, stating that “Someone mistakenly solicited donors” in a fashion that “is in no way tolerable, and so that person had been terminated.” Bohn would not name the outside consultant responsible for what he said was the unintentional use of Daley’s D-2 information.

After talking to other donors on Daley’s list who received invitations, but were not previous supporters of Smith, it became clear to Guttman that a violation took place.

Daley’s D-2 supporter list was made up exclusively of the alderman’s close friends and family relation, according to Guttman. For those people to have received solicitations, and not have any previous connection to Smith, made it, “immediately apparent that [Smith’s] campaign couldn’t have gotten their information somewhere other than our list,” she said.

“It was a clear-cut case,” Guttman added. “It was hard to just ignore it.”

Guttman filed the claim because she wanted to make sure Ald. Daley’s donors understood that their information had not been given out. “We wanted to reassure our donors that we had no part in this,” she said.

Guttman said that she is disappointed in the actions of the Friends of Michele Smith. “I expect more from people,” she said. “If you want good government, you have to play by the rules of good government.”

This isn’t the first time the Friends of Vi Daley have filed a claim against the Friends of Michele Smith, she said.

Four years ago, during the last election, Guttman filed a complaint against the organization for illegal campaign activity when Smith was a candidate running against Daley. According to the charge, the group offered free beers to new donors, which she said is against election law.

However, Guttman believes Smith herself “would never do anything like this,” because she is a former Federal prosecutor and, as the ward’s current Democratic Party Committeeman, is versed in state election law.

Daley won re-election to the city council that year in a special runoff against Smith, but decided to retire this year after three terms in office.

So what does this mean for the 43rd Ward, which has a crowded field seeking to become the new alderman?

Smith remains on the ballot of course, but until the Illinois  Board of Elections comes to a final decision on Feb. 23, a day after the election, Lincoln Park’s aldermanic race just got a bit more interesting.

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