Organizers of Evanston Together LLC, a political action committee formed earlier this month, pledged today to reveal the group’s donors Thursday.
That’s the opening of a 15-day period in which political committees have to report their first-quarter income and expenses to the state.
The group has come under attack from incoming Mayor Daniel Biss who was quoted in a news report as saying it was “operating, essentially as a dark money PAC.”
Dark money PACs are tax exempt groups that generally are not required to disclose their contributions.
While the new group hasn’t yet disclosed donations it has received, no committee or candidate — including Biss — is required to disclose individual contributions of less than $1,000 until after the quarter has ended.
In a statement today, Evanston Together organizers Marya Frankel, Dick Peach, Kent Swanson, Paul Brown and Mike Davis said several aldermanic candidates made clear during an NAACP candidate forum on March 2 that “their political agenda was not served” by the current City Council and are using their political grievances “to begin a conversation about fundamentally changing the professionally-managed government” Evanston has had since the 1950s.
“We don’t think settling political scores should be the foundation for changing the current system where a democratically-elected City Council sets policy that is implemented by a professional staff managing a $300 million annual budget and a staff of 700+,” the group adds in the statement.
They suggest moving to a strong mayor system risks “politicizing city services and injecting cronyism into the hiring of city staff.”
In a flyer, the group urged voters: “Don’t let Evanston become like Cicero.”
That comment drew the ire of Biss earlier this week. He called it “an ugly and racially charged effort to connect us to a majority-Latinx community with a strong mayor government.”
Cicero is also a community with a history of political corruption — dating from long before it became heavily Hispanic — from the 1920s when it was the headquarters for mobster Al Capone, through the 2002 conviction of Town President Betty Loren-Maltese in a $12 million insurance scam, and more recent allegations of cronyism and sexual harassment against current Town President Larry Dominick.
None of that history made it into the three-page blast from Biss.
The Evanston Together leaders also argue that many of the candidates it opposes “support allowing special interests to place an endless series of binding referendums on the ballot, bypassing our elected representatives and reducing complex issues to misleading lawn sign campaigns.”
They add that they hope other organizations will join them in disclosing their donors before the April 6 election.