Current News



Mayor Lightfoot's campaign defended emails seeking volunteers after school district raised alarm

Gregory Pratt, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — A Chicago Public Schools official informed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign team that it can’t recruit students for political work on campus or offer extra credit — hours before the mayor’s campaign released a statement defending it as a “common practice” done for decades, emails obtained by The Chicago Tribune show.

Lightfoot’s campaign emailed CPS teachers earlier this month asking them to help recruit students for her reelection campaign in exchange for class credit.

The Lightfoot campaign’s effort to recruit students is under investigation by CPS Inspector General Will Fletcher and Chicago IG Deborah Witzburg. Lightfoot has apologized for the emails, calling them a “mistake” while downplaying them as an error in judgment by a staffer.

Records released to the Tribune show the principal at William Howard Taft High School received the email and forwarded it to a supervisor, who forwarded it to top administrators on Jan. 11.

That afternoon, at 1 p.m., Chuck Swirsky, a senior adviser to CPS head Pedro Martinez, emailed the district’s chief ethics adviser, Jennifer Chan, and others, “This has been resolved. They will stop.” At 3:16 p.m., Swirsky emailed Lightfoot campaign staffer Megan Crane to document their earlier discussion.

“Thanks for chatting before. Just to reiterate our phone conversation, no recruitment for interns or vols can be done on campus or by staff/teachers. We also can not provide any classroom credit,” Swirsky said. “Any questions can be directed to me or Jennifer Chan, cc’d here. Thanks!”


Hours later, just before 6 p.m., the Lightfoot campaign released a statement denying any wrongdoing and characterizing the email as a typical learning opportunity offered by campaigns.

Later, the team released an amended statement saying it would stop out of an “abundance of caution” and later released another statement saying that all campaign staff members “have been reminded about the solid wall that must exist between campaign and official activities and that contacts with any city of Chicago, or other sister agency employees, including CPS employees, even through publicly available sources is off limits. Period.”

It’s not clear why the Lightfoot campaign would defend the practice even after being told it was improper.

The Lightfoot campaign declined to address specific questions but released a statement: “As the Mayor has said, once she found out about the email recruitment on January 11th, she directed her staff to cease the efforts. Our campaign issued an updated press statement in order to clarify that we had taken her directive and halted the effort.”


swipe to next page

©2023 Chicago Tribune. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus