A public official chosen by President Obama’s former chief of staff to oversee the finances of a major U.S. city faces more than a decade in jail for operating a huge kickback and money-laundering scheme as Ohio’s deputy state treasurer.
Nevertheless Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s good pal and one-time White House chief of staff, hired the corrupt official, Amer Ahmad, to be Chicago Comptroller. If you recall, Emanuel left his presidential job to become mayor of the Windy City in 2011. Before joining the Obama administration Emanuel served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and as a senior advisor in the Bill Clinton White House.
Yet, Emanuel claims through aides that he had no idea he was hiring a crook to supervise the city’s finances, though the mayor refuses to comment on his friend’s bribery scandal. A Chicago newspaper reports that City Hall hired a law firm to vet Ahmad and it confirmed no criminal wrongdoing by the former Ohio deputy state treasurer. Ahmad, who resigned abruptly as Chicago Comptroller in July, joined the Emanuel administration in 2011.
This week in a Cincinnati federal court Ahmad pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. The feds say he used his Ohio government job to secure “lucrative state business” for his high school buddy in exchange for more than half a million dollars in kickbacks. Besides facing up to 15 years in prison, Ahmad agreed to pay more than $3.2 million in restitution and $500,000 in fines, according to his plea agreement.
Attached to the plea document is the federal complaint outlining Ahmad’s illicit kickback scheme. Even though he was Ohio’s Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Treasurer, Ahmad was the president of one company and partial owner of another, the complaint says. Those are the businesses that were used to funnel the state money. The purpose of the conspiracy was clear, the complaint says; for the defendants to enrich themselves, their friends and associates.
This is hardly the first scandal to rock the Emanuel administration in its short tenure at the helm of Chicago City Hall. Emanuel got in trouble for unlawfully accessing the private information of Chicago public employees in an effort to get their support for his mayoral candidacy. Union leaders were up in arms and city employees accused him of invading their privacy. Then, the co-chair of Emanuel’s mayoral campaign, a high-level state employee, quit abruptly for illegally using public resources to conduct political business.
For his many transgressions, Emanuel has also appeared on Judicial Watch’s annual most corrupt politicians list. In 2010 Emanuel teamed up with his then Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina to interfere with Senate elections in two states by offering federal appointments to persuade candidates not favored by Obama to abandon their campaigns. Emanuel was also Obama’s chief negotiator with convicted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as he tried to illegally sell Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder, according to sworn testimony during Blagojevich’s federal trial. Judicial Watch covered both of Blagojevich’s trials in Chicago federal court. The jury deadlocked in the first trial and convicted him of 17 corruption charges in the second. The disgraced politician is serving a 14-year sentence in a Colorado federal prison.
President Obama’s former chief of staff hasn’t even been sworn in as Chicago mayor and already his administration has been tainted by a major scandal involving the illegal use of public resources to conduct political business.The co-chair of mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s campaign, also a top member of his transition team, quit abruptly after the local media revealed that she engaged in“prohibited political activity” as a high-level state employee to help none other than Obama get elected in 2008. As the director of Illinois’ Board of Higher Education, Judy Erwin used her state-issued cell phone, electronic mail account and other public resources to work on Obama’s presidential campaign.Erwin, also a former Illinois lawmaker, served on Obama’s Education Policy Committee while she headed the state agency, used staff resources to plan her trip to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and engaged in political campaign fundraising activities on taxpayer time, according to the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission. Made public earlier this month, the panel’s ruling blasts Erwin for intentionally misappropriating state property and resources.Erwin was fined $4,000, got booted from her high-level public job last August and agreed never to seek state employment in the future. She claims it was a careless mistake and that she had become “accustomed to using administrative assistants in the private sector in a way that is not permitted in the public sector.”The ethics committee didn’t buy it, countering that, as a high-level state official, Erwin should have known better because she was “sophisticated in the ways of state government, having served in a number of capacities since 1979.” The panel further determined that the violations were “significant and numerous” and could not be “explained away as oversights or temporary lapses in judgment.”Erwin also got chastised for creating a “heavily colored” atmosphere for the Board of Education with her political activity on the job. As a “particularly troubling” example it lists a campaign contribution Erwin made to a state lawmaker who chaired Illinois’ higher education appropriations committee.”This suggests that she was responding to a real or imagined pay to play incentive within state government,” the ethics ruling states.Emanuel claims that he had no idea about Erwin’s troubled past and says it won’t deter him from consulting his good friend with the vast “public policy knowledge.”As for Erwin, she’s not exactly unemployed because her gig with the new mayor didn’t pan out. Earlier this month, she became a managing director at the Chicagopublic affairs company founded by Obama’s top political advisor (David Axelrod).
President Obama’s good pal and former chief of staff could be in trouble for unlawfully accessing the private information of Chicago public employees in an effort to get their support for his mayoral candidacy.Rahm Emanuel sent a personal letter to the homes of city workers that evidently included sensitive information related to their pension, according to a local newspaper report. Outraged union leaders are demanding to know how the former White House bigwig got their names, home addresses and information about their retirement plans.One city employee said it was an “invasion of privacy” and compared it to getting his “Social Security number stolen.” Another claimed Emanuel’s letter looked “personal” and was clearly aimed at and written for city employees, not the general population. That public employee assures he doesn’t mind solicitations because he’s a registered voter, but this particular mailing crossed a line.Written on Emanuel’s personal stationery, the letter was sent in an unmarked white envelope with a postage stamp rather than the metered kind often used by political campaigns and advertisers. It addressed a contentious issue that’s become the focus of financially-strapped states and municipalities nationwide; the costly pension benefits of public employees.Evidently Emanuel alienated several local unions by suggesting that he would cut pension benefits for public workers if he were to run the Windy City. In the letter he blames “political games” by his opponents for distorting his position, which he says is to “protect the retirement of our workers.” He assures that it would be “wrong to take away benefits that hard-working city workers have earned.”While this sort of rhetoric is quite common in political campaigns, the question remains; how did Emanuel get the names and home addresses of Chicago’s public employees? A city official quoted in the news story assures that, even in response to public records requests, databases never include home addresses. “It’s all exempt,” the official confirmed.A member of Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians,” Emanuel is well known for his unscrupulous antics, which include serving as Bill Clinton’s chief money-man and defending the impeached president’s many scandals. As White House chief of staff, Emanuel reportedly interfered with Senate elections inPennsylvania and Colorado by offering federal appointments to persuade candidates opposed by Obama to abandon their campaigns. Emanuel was also heavily embroiled in the Rod Blagojevich scandal because he was Obama’s chief negotiator when the former Illinois governor attempted to sell his vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder.