UPC-STORY: After being caught lying to 27,000 CTU members in a May 19 mailing, Stewart faction slightly modifies its claim about Lisa Madigan's supposed Stewart endorsement
By June 1, 2010, the official version of history had once again been changed by Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus. Whereas prior to the May 21 CTU election, Stewart claimed, in a mailing to the union's 27,000 members, that she had received an "endorsement" from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the official version of reality changed when Substance contacted the Attorney General, whose spokesman denied the "endorsement" as well as any donation to the Stewart campaign.
This article is the first in a series of SubstanceNews articles that will document the final days of the United Progressive Caucus (UPC) and its strange versions of fact and reality.
The following article appears in the June 2010 print edition of Substance, and is available here to our readers so that the UPC's amnesia does not go without notice:
Marilyn Stewart falsely claims "endorsement" from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
By George N. Schmidt
Did the Attorney General of the State of Illinois endorse one candidate — the incumbent — in the heated local union election of the largest public urban teacher union local in the state, the Chicago Teachers Union? According to the Attorney General’s office, the answer is “No.”
According to Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart and a mailing from her “United Progressive Caucus” (UPC) a few days before she was one of five candidates for on the ballot for CTU President in the May 21 election, the answer was “Yes.”
According to the Illinois Attorney General’s political office, the answer is “No.”
A day-long Substance investigation into the mailing revealed that Stewart’s claim was false. Despite the mass mailing by CTU President Marilyn Stewart, claiming an endorsement from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in the May 21, 2010 CTU election, the endorsement had not been made, according to a spokesman for the attorney general reached by Substance following a day of trying. A controversial fundraiser for Marilyn Stewart’s candidacy held at the end of April has also raised more questions than it has yielded answers at Substance press time.
The facts: Marilyn Stewart, incumbent president of the Chicago Teachers Union, claimed in a mailing to the union’s 27,000 voting members during the final week before voting, that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan — the state’s highest ranking legal official and best know woman political leader — had “endorsed” Stewart in the hotly contested election campaign. The mailing, which included a photograph of Stewart and the Attorney General, stated: “Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State, full dues-paying member of the CTU, and Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, announce their endorsement of Marilyn Stewart, President, CTU.”
The majority of union members were scheduled to vote in the city’s more than 600 public schools on May 21, 2010, two days after the expensive mailing was scheduled to arrive at voters’ homes. The third mailing from Marilyn Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus (UPC) arrived at the homes of most union members on May 19. In the UPC’s final mailing, Stewart took the unprecedented step of telling the union’s members that she had the endorsement of two prominent state officials, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, as well as two local labor leaders. (Other union officials were invited to the Marilyn Stewart fundraiser but no endorsement was claimed). While Secretary of State Jesse White has been a lifelong CTU member (even when he is no longer teaching, CTU claims his membership while UPC officials kick out others) and has long supported the incumbent leadership, the claim about Attorney General Madigan was unprecedented. The mailing arrived at the homes of most union members on Wednesday, May 19 — two days before the election. It included a photograph of Stewart with Lisa Madigan and Jesse White under the headline “State and Union Leaders Endorse Marilyn Stewart and the UPC team!”
“The attorney general did not make any endorsement,” Mary Morrissey, political director for the Lisa Madigan campaign, told Substance on May 20. “Lisa did attend the April 29 fundraising event, but did not make a contribution to Marilyn Stewart’s campaign.”
The statement by Lisa Madigan’s office came after Substance spent several hours the day before the election trying to get an official comment from the Attorney General herself. The attempt at clarification began with a call to the Attorney General’s Springfield office, which was referred to the Attorney General’s Chicago office. At the Chicago office, we were told that Robyn Ziegler, who is spokesman for Madigan was unavailable for comment. Later, Ziegler told Substance that such questions should be referred not to Lisa Madigan’s governmental office, but to Lisa Madigan’s campaign office.
At the end of the day on May 20, Madigan’s campaign office spoke with Substance and clarified the matter as quoted in this article.
The final UPC mailing of the May campaign followed a controversial but nearly secret fundraising event for Marilyn Stewart that took place on April 29 at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall at 220 S. Michigan Ave.
According to those who were asked to participate in the event, prominent labor and political leaders were asked to attend a cocktail reception to support the re-election of Marilyn Stewart. At least one mailing for the event obtained by Substance was clear that the event was to support Marilyn Stewart’s re-election. The invitation stated: “Please join us for a cocktail reception to support the re-election of MARILYN STEWART, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, Co-Chair of the United Progressive Caucus.”
Tickets for the event were $150 per individual, with escalating prices:
$250 for “Friend”
$500 for “Supporter”
$1,000 for “Sponsor”
$2,500 for “Host”
$5,000 for “Chair”.
Although Marilyn Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus was benefiting from the event, the event itself was never noted or advertised on the UPC website (www.UPC4CTU.com) or mentioned in any UPC literature being distributed to the union’s House of Delegates or in the schools during the month before the event. Instead, the event was handled by a group called “RSR and Associates” at an address at 47 W. Polk St in Chicago. RSR and Associates, whose website says it is still under construction (“full website coming soon...”), describes itself as a “meeting planning and fundraising firm”, owned by women.
“We are committed to producing flawless meetings and events and pride ourselves on unparalleled service,” the tentative website for RSR associates says now (see www.rsrchicago.com).
A message left for RSR Associates Chicago was not returned by the end of the work day on May 20, nor subsequently. Substance also asked RSR associates, which produced the April 29 fundraiser for Marilyn Stewart, to inform the public how much money was raised at the Orchestra Hall event, and from whom.
“Frequently, Lisa appears in pictures with candidates for various offices,” Mary Morrissey told Substance. “Lisa went to the April 29 event at Orchestra Hall. She did not speak, and she did not make a contribution.”
Throughout the election campaign, Substance asked every caucus for a contact person who could speak on behalf of the caucus. Only the UPC refused to provide one. Following the May 20 publication of this story on line at www.substancenews.net, Rosemaria Genova, the spokesman for the Chicago Teachers Union, told Substance that she had personally heard the conversation that formed the basis for the UPC mailing. At the time of the conversation with Substance, Genova was working for the Chicago Teachers Union, not for Marilyn Stewart’s UPC.
[Full disclosure: Substance editor and investigative reporter George N. Schmidt has not been on any slate in the 2010 CTU election, although he has run for union office and served as a union staff member in the past. A CTU member since 1969 (except when the United Progressive Caucus refused to accept his union dues), Schmidt currently serves as a delegate for retired teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates. He is serving as the observer for CORE at the vote count for the June 11 runoff. He served as observer at the vote count on May 21, 22, and 24 2010 for the CORE caucus. Schmidt’s reports on the vote counts following the May 21, 2010 voting can be found at the May 2010 Home Page at www.substancenews.net].