Emboldened by the political strength it gained through this year’s City Council remap, Latino aldermen and their allies said Monday that they are taking steps to form two non-profit organizations that will push their issues and dole out scholarships.
One of the new organizations is a non-profit corporation similar to those that have been used at the national level to spend millions from anonymous donors on issue ads backing or targeting political candidates. The group’s chairman, Ald. Daniel Solis, said the “the caucus will not promote any one political party or candidate.”
The caucus also is forming a foundation “that will be used to promote education and community building in Latino neighborhoods,” Solis said. The foundation will award scholarships, according to a statement issued by the caucus.
Donations to the foundation will be tax deductible, but those to the issues organization will not.
Some issues organizations have worked alongside Super PACs in major campaigns. Such groups can accept contributions without disclosing donors, including corporations and unions, because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings on how they may operate.
“There’s no intent of using this...for endorsements of any candidate or campaigns,” said Victor Reyes, an attorney who represents the Latino Caucus and is a longtime political operative and onetime leader of the defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization. “They will be focused on issues.”
The group said it will, however, take part in voter registration, citizenship initiatives and get-out-the-vote operations.
Joining the caucus are the council’s eight Latino aldermen, as well as up to six white aldermen and one African-American council member. The non-Latino members represent wards that will have Latino majorities under the new map approved in January.
Among the white aldermen are two of the council’s most powerful members: Edward Burke, 14th, and Richard Mell, 33rd.
“I’ve come to believe that the goals of aspirations of all of our constituents are the same regardless of their ethnic heritage of their racial background,” said Burke, whose once white ethnic Southwest Side ward now has a strong Latino majority.
“I think they all want safe streets, good schools,” Burke added. “They want a safe environment so their families can prosper. It really has little do with the cultural or ethnic considerations. We all want the same thing.”
Solis said steps will be taken to ensure that all caucus activities conform to city ethics code. The caucus has sought opinions from both the city’s top attorney and the Board of Ethics about which companies it may ask for donations.
The group also has asked whether aldermen can accept meals or trips, and whether they must be reported, in their roles as caucus members.
Asked whether some groups might feel compelled to contribute if they were asked to do so by their aldermen, who can make service and zoning decisions affecting anyone who lives or works in their wards, Solis reiterated that the caucus will focus on issues and ensure everything is done in keeping with city ethics rules.
One of the issues the caucus will focus on is ensuring Latino businesses get their fair share of contracts at City Hall.
“Our caucus will promote the interests of Latino-owned small businesses by encouraging policies that make minority certification and city contracts available to Hispanic-owned local businesses,” Solis said.