Emanuel friend, alderman’s husband illegally lobbied mayor through his personal email, ethics board finds

Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets people while announcing a new summer safety program in the 3rd and 4th wards in July 2016 at Mandrake Park. 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King is pictured in the foreground.

A top Chicago business executive and the husband of a South Side alderman illegally lobbied Mayor Rahm Emanuel through his personal email account, the Chicago Board of Ethics announced Friday.

Jim Abrams, the chief operating officer of medical supply giant Medline Industries Inc., and Alan King, the husband of 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King, both were found to have broken the city’s ethics rules for seeking to influence the mayor and City Hall action without registering as a lobbyist, as the law requires.

Abrams emailed Emanuel to ask him to consider a friend’s pitch to receive an exemption in an ordinance the mayor was pursuing to increase the city’s minimum wage. King, a DJ, emailed Emanuel to have a fence removed from a Chicago park to accommodate the "Chosen Few House Music Picnic."

The ethics board made the two violations public Friday, but will not determine how much to fine Abrams and King until after its meeting next month.

Abrams’ interaction with the mayor was first reported by the Chicago Tribune as part of a March report that detailed how Emanuel’s personal email accounts had served as a private avenue of influence where lobbyists, corporate executives and longtime associates and campaign donors sought action from — and access to — the mayor. The newspaper found 26 possible lobbying violations the Tribune detailed in its report.

The panel has seen a sharp increase in potential cases since the Tribune report because the board largely relies on information being made public to form its cases since the City Council has not granted it any investigative power.

Under the city’s sweeping ethics law, a lobbyist is defined as someone who "undertakes to influence any legislative or administrative action" by city officials, employees and the City Council or its committees. A person does not have to be paid by a company or party to be considered a lobbyist, they just have to try to influence city officials on behalf of another individual or entity.

Lobbyists are required to register with the city and report each contact with government officials. Exempt from registering are those acting solely on their own behalf or representing nonprofit groups that don’t have for-profit members.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Twitter @BillRuthhart

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