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MEDIA WATCH: Sun-Times hatchet jobs against Karen Lewis bounce back against Rahm's buddy's newspaper... over and over and over... Ferro publishes a 'dot.com' property to make Zoe Barnes proud...

The puerile attempt by the Chicago Sun-Times to do an "expose" on the finances of Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis backfired as soon as readers had the time to read, digest, and think about what the city's morning tabloid reported. Think about it: According to the Sun-Times, the union president (a) is paid less than several of the union's staffers, (b) had the foresight to purchase properties in Chicago and for vacations like most middle class people try to do and (c) works a lot of hours...

The Chicago Sun-Times 'expos' against CTU President Karen Lewis actually shows that Lewis has been an intelligent middle class citizen of Chicago. Like many Chicagoans, Lewis and her husband John own a vacation home in Hawaii. Lewis also shares ownership with her sister on a home purchased years ago, when the market was favorable, in Union Pier Michigan. The Sun-Times article, ordered up by the newspaper's current owners, screams as if Lewis's pay and financial situation were comparable to that of a multi-millionaire who used his clout to make $18 million during three years on Wall Street and who was part of the real estate bubble and collapse as a director of AIG. Yet to view the front page of "SUN TIMES.COM" on August 12, 2014, the average reader would have thought that the Sun-Times had caught Karen Lewis

-- hiding part of a billion dollar fortune (which she doesn't have) in offshore accounts to avoid paying U.S. taxes (whoops -- that's Bruce Rauner, the Pritzkers, and lots of other rich people the Sun-Times likes and with whom its owners socialize regularly)...

-- or studying "dance" and "communications" in college -- and then somehow discovering financial talents that produce "earnings" of $18 million during a three-year stint on Wall Street as a "relationship banker...".... whoops... that's the Sun-Times owner's buddy, Rahm Emanuel... The Sun-Times in its August 13 attack on Karen Lewis actually claims Even Rahm doesn't try to claim that. When asked how he could "earn" $18 million in three years, he's been telling people that he was a new entity, a "relationship banker..." That means he took the Roladex he began building when he worked first for Mayor Richard M. Daley and then for President Bill Clinton and used it to "create wealth" both for his Wall Street employer and for himself...

-- or asking why Rahm's sudden infatuation with his non "home town" Chicago arose just at the time in history when much of the scandal surrounding the contribution of AIG to the most recent financial crisis took place during the time when Rahm held a lucrative (high six figure) part-time job as a member of the AIG Board of Directors....

Once the screaming headlines are defogged, the Sun-Times article supposedly against Lewis basically shows that she was able to husband her own resources and build a small piece of the American Dream. She did it in the way most Americans do, buying a home, getting a vacation home, and working with her family. Teachers and others who labor for a living understand how that method of financial planning works. What is invisible to most people who vote in Chicago is how political and social connections can make a man a multi-millionaire during three years on Wall Street, and how the machinations of the Rahm Emanuels of AIG and Wall Street collapse the economy of the USA and then boldly try to continue their own "one percent" wealth building by looting public worker pension plans and busting public worker unions so that their buddies can become entrepreneurs at charter schools and similar contractual ventures which are neither regulated by the government nor investigated by the likes of the Sun-Times.

The Sun-Times also notes, but is loathe to admit, that Karen Lewis, as President of the largest union local in Illinois, is making less than five of those who work under her leadership.

The obfuscation of this fact shows also that the Sun-Times reporters who did the story were out to do a hatchet job, rather than learning about the sacrifices the current union leaders have made to recast both the workings and the activities of the CTU. The CTU officers voluntarily adjusted the union's pay scales when they took office, as the records show. But as a result, Lynn Cherkasky Davis, Tony Lopez, Martha Allen, Sara Echevarria, and Gregg Cox are all making more money at the CTU than any of the union's four elected officers. And because the officers' pay is based on what they would have been earning had they remained in their classroom teaching jobs, two of them in 2014 are still making less than $100,000 per year.

As the union officers explained on several occasions to the House of Delegates, the salaries of the top officials at CTU were changed in 2010 when Karen Lewis and the CORE slate won the leadership positions at the union. As a result of the savings, the union was able to establish an organizing department, begin a research department (disclosure: I have worked as a consultant on research for the CTU) and expand communications both internally and externally. By contrast, more than a dozen former union staff members retired between 2010 and 2011 at salaries so high that they are currently receiving pensions of more than $100,000 per year, as records of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) show. All five of the officers who served during the years before 2010 currently are being paid pensions that are higher than the pay of any of the current officers, an indication of how much of a sacrifice the new CTU leadership made when they took office in July 2010.

Karen Lewis spoke frankly and candidly about her personal finances and about her current job with the reporters from the Sun-Times who produced the hatchet job on behalf of their owner. And the union has established an unprecedented record of openness with almost all media people since 2010 (the exception is crazy right wing outfits that lurk around all union activities to do hatchet jobs on all unions).

But readers should expect that the Sun-Times, which has been denuded of reporters under its new owners, will continue serving the interests of its owner and friends in an unprecedented way.

The Sun-Times today is owned by Rahm Emanuel's buddy Michael Ferro, who purchased the paper in hopes of turning it around quickly as an internet "property." His ruthless cuts in reporting staff and the paper's ridiculous reliance on pundits rather than reporters has been noted since he fired the paper's photojournalists (amid protests joined by the CTU officers) claiming that in the Internet Age, any Zoe Barnes is the equal of a trained, principled and experience reporter.

The August 13 Sun-Times attack on Karen Lewis won't be the last, but as the mayoral race looms, it's good that Chicago readers are forewarned about how the city's propaganda machines will be in operation this year.

SUN TIMES HATCHET JOB AGAINST KAREN LEWIS...

3 homes, $200,000-plus pay for possible mayoral candidate Lewis by DAN MIHALOPOULOS AND CHRIS FUSCO. Chicago Sun-Times, front page, August 13, 2014.

Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union president now considering whether to run for mayor, has frequently railed against the influence of the wealthy.

Why do people of wealth and privilege try to convince the world they have neither? she said on Twitter last year. Be honest that you dont have a clue about poverty.

She has ripped Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a tool of corporate Chicago, labeled him Mayor 1% and described herself as not egotistical or rich.

Lewis isnt as wealthy as Emanuel, a multimillionaire who made his fortune during a short stint as an investment banker. But she makes more than $200,000 a year and has an ownership interest in three homes, records show.

That includes vacation homes in Hawaii and in the upscale Harbor Country area of southwestern Michigan, where Emanuel has a second home, property records show.

Lewis, 61, has said she has launched an informal exploratory committee in anticipation of a possible mayoral run in Februarys election, when Emanuel will be seeking a second term. Last week, Lewis put the odds at 50-50 she will run.

A recent poll done for Early & Often, the Chicago Sun-Times politics portal, gave Lewis a 9-percentage-point lead over Emanuel in a hypothetical mayoral matchup.

In the wake of the 2012 teachers strike and a record number of school closings last year, a Lewis campaign for mayor appears poised to key on growing income disparity in Chicago. The teachers union leader already has called for raising taxes on the richest to fund education.

The mayor makes $216,200 a year.

Thats about $15,000 more than Lewis made from her two union salaries, according to the most recent union tax filings.

The CTU reported to the Internal Revenue Service that it paid Lewis $136,890, plus $18,687 in nontaxable benefits, for the year ending June 30, 2013.

In addition to her Chicago union post, Lewis also serves as executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, based in Westmont.

The IFTs most recently available tax filings show it paid Lewis a base salary in 2013 of $64,157, plus $16,039 in other compensation. That was for benefits, an IFT spokeswoman said.

When she first ran for CTU president four years ago, Lewis promised not to make more than the highest-paid teacher.

How can you criticize [the CPS CEO] for making $230,000 a year during these hard times if youre making so much more than your members? she told the Chicago Reader then.

Chicago Public Schools payroll records show no teacher makes as much as Lewis $136,890 CTU base salary.

In an interview Tuesday, Lewis said she didnt break her promise not to make more as union president than Chicagos highest-paid teacher makes, saying her CTU salary is for working the full year, rather than a 39-week school year.

With an income thats in the top 5 percent of all Americans, Lewis, a former science teacher, takes yearly vacations to Hawaii. She said she usually does that during the winter. But, anticipating she could be busy with a mayoral race this winter, she instead spent part of this summer in Hawaii.

Lewis has a three-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium on the Big Island of Hawaii. Lewis and her husband a retired Chicago physical education teacher bought the 1,300-square-foot unit in the Waikoloa Villas in 2011 for $240,000, property records show. Its a short drive from an oceanfront lined with Fairmont, Hilton and Marriott luxury resorts.

In Chicago, Lewis and her husband live in a condo in Kenwood they bought seven years ago for $405,000.

She and her sister also own a vacation home in Union Pier, Michigan, thats been in her family since 1961. Berrien County, Michigan, officials value the property at $305,000.

Union Pier is also where Emanuel has a two-story home about half a mile from the home of Lewis and her sister that he bought for $675,000 in 2003. Emanuel, who made $18 million in 2 1/2 years as an investment banker, lives in Ravenswood in a home he bought in 1998 for $695,000.

Lewis was first elected CTU president in 2010 and won another term as head of the 30,000-member union last year, carrying 80 percent of the vote.

Lewis has blasted Emanuels education policies and other actions she says favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor. And she has called for a LaSalle Street tax, saying the poor and working class pay an effective tax rate higher than what the top 5 percent wage-earners in Chicago pay.

In the interview, Lewis said, I dont live extravagantly. But if you look just at the numbers, then, absolutely, I am in the 5 percent.

We are comfortable, she said. We are not poor. We have never been poor. Does that mean I dont have the pulse of [the poor]? I dont live in luxury. I dont hang out with wealthy people. I have always been solidly middle class.

You cannot put me in the same class with Rahm Emanuel or [Republican gubernatorial candidate] Bruce Rauner.

About the condo in Hawaii, she said, We bought when the market was low, and we got an exceptional deal.

She said she and her husband also have stakes in two time-share homes in Hawaii, as well as time-shares in New York, Mexico and Colorado.

Regarding her pay, Lewis said, Im not going to apologize for it. I dont think thats wrong. I did what we are told to do. You are supposed to go to school, become educated. I have an Ivy League diploma. I have two masters degrees. Im a board-certified teacher.

Lewis pay as teachers union president is based on a 50-hour work week, according to the unions tax return.

I wish I were working 50 hours, Lewis said. My day usually starts around 7 in the morning, and, if Im lucky, Im home by 10 at night. I work really long hours.

She also is paid for 10 hours a week by the IFT, the statewide labor group of which the local is a part.

Lewis isnt the highest-paid CTU official. Union administrator Lynn Cherkasky-Davis made $212,888 in base pay during the 2012-13 fiscal year. And four of the union locals field representatives also were paid more than Lewis.



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