Mayoral donor Abrams accused of ethics violation over email
James Abrams, a donor to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the husband of a city alderwoman, violated an ethics ordinance by lobbying without registering to do so, according to the Chicago Board of Ethics.
A July 21 document confirms that the board made the determination in April. It also reveals that the board voted on the formal ruling on June 13, that Abrams asked the board to reconsider on July 17, and that the board upheld its decision in another vote on July 19.
As proof of the lobbying activity in question, the board publicly provided text from an e-mail Abrams sent to the mayor containing a personal note and the forwarding of a message from an unnamed business owner. The text of both messages can be found in the board’s release.
“Note below is from one of my dearest friends in the world…,” Abrams’ message reads. “He ... has a manufacturing business in [location redacted]. What you decide, you decide but I'd appreciate very much if you would hear him out… .”
The forwarded message regards an attempt to get an exemption from the new Chicago minimum wage increase. to $11 an hour as part of a staged increase under a December 2014 law. Some residents in Chicago and adjacent Cook County have been critical of minimum wage increases, fearing financial harm to businesses.
Key to the board’s decision was that the forwarded message contained both “a position and an argument,” thus constituting lobbying activity.
Representatives for Abrams have characterized the requirement to formally register as a lobbyist in order to request meetings with public officials as a constraint of First Amendment rights.