“Clearly Lightfoot has not made a big priority of raising money since her election,” Redfield notes. “Usually you do so throughout your term because it spreads the effort out and because you want to discourage opponents from getting into the race by having a big war chest.”
Lightfoot aides say they’re not concerned about such matters. A “strategic decision” to cease fundraising during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is driving much of the recent decline, and any legal issues are irrelevant, they assert.
Still, some outsiders are beginning to wonder why a mayor who, like Emanuel, could face a tough time winning a new term, hasn’t done more to build up her financial reserves and scare off potential challengers.
Here’s what state financial disclosure records show:
Lightfoot has two committees: Lightfoot for Chicago, her personal campaign fund, and Light PAC, which is designed to push policy positions and aid allies in the City Council and elsewhere.
Emanuel also had two funds, but his PAC, Chicago Forward, wasn’t formed until mid-2014, when he was preparing to circulate nominating petitions for a new term.
Since winning office on April 2, 2019, Lightfoot’s two funds have reported cash receipts of $3,921,976. The bulk of that haul was in her first year, with reported income of $2,831,702 from April 2019 through June 2020. Income the second year—from July 2020 to the end of June 2021—plummeted to $1,090,274.
That’s exactly the opposite of Emanuel’s trajectory.
Trusting in his own money-raising prowess, the former congressman intentionally chose not to fundraise in his first year in office, a maneuver that would allow him to credibly tell voters he was focusing on his new job as mayor. He raised just $107,619 then.
Emanuel’s intake dramatically changed in the second year, with his campaign committee grossing $3.2 million—$2.2 million of that just in the second quarter, April through June 2013.