Are stars aligning for Rahm's long-term plans?

Updated 2/27/2011 4:27 PM

Fresh from his election night conquest, Rahm Emanuel said victory was built on support from 'every corner of the city."

Cleverly though, Mr. Emanuel didn't reveal which city he meant.


Did he mean New York City, from which thousands of dollars came to his swollen campaign account?

Maybe he was referring to Woodland Hills and Malibu, cities out in Southern California where entertainment industry luminaries live. They coughed up at least a cool million dollars so Emanuel could become mayor of a city 1,750 miles away.

The records of mayor-elect Emanuel's contributions look like a ZIP code directory, there are so many sources of income from outside Chicago.

Into his open hand fell millions of dollars from oil tycoons, investment bankers, former national political figures, film producers and screenwriters and global business executives.

There is nothing illegal about soliciting campaign funds from across state lines. Big-name members of Congress solicit funds from the powerful and wealthy coast-to-coast all the time. You can understand why someone in Seattle might donate to a senator from Florida: members of Congress vote on national issues.

Chicago does have a fairly strong film industry, and maybe that is all there is behind the support handed to Rahm Emanuel by Hollywood moguls. After all, his brother Ari is a Hollywood fixture and executive at the talent agency WME/Endeavor. Ari lined up much of the showbiz backing for Rahm.

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Ari Emanuel co-hosted a fundraiser for his brother last fall in Hollywood with the backbone of DreamWorks, David Geffen and my boss, Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Even bicoastal Donald Trump, a notable Republican, ponied up $50,000 for Rahm's campaign. Then again Trump does own a building in downtown Chicago.

Do you think the Emanuel brothers and all of the supporters they have recruited outside Chicago were angling for something else?

Rahm says he is focused on reversing Chicago's economic free fall and restoring sanity to city government. There is nothing on the table that disputes he intends to do just that.

But behind his piercing eyes and in the recesses of his mile-a-minute, calculating gray matter, there is something else brewing. You can feel it. Just as Rod Blagojevich weaseled his way into the Hollywood crowd because he saw himself as presidential timber, Rahm Emanuel may have made forays into the entertainment/political alliance for some future campaign that would require a wider support base.


If that comes true, then the non-Chicagoans who donated to Rahm for Mayor obtained a foothold with someone who really has his eyes on an elective position well east of Lake Shore Drive: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

When the last penny was counted, Mr. Emanuel had collected $12 million and spent all but a million or two to occupy the fifth floor of Chicago City Hall. He raised a $1.5 million in the last month and a half before the election. So there was considerable sizzle surrounding Rahm leading up to the 55 percent winning triumph.

When Richard M. Daley actually leaves office, he won't be worrying about Rahm Emanuel challenging his longevity record. It's as likely that Rahm Emanuel will be a multi-term mayor as it is that we've seen our last snow flurry of the season.

Not because he couldn't win again and again, but Mr. Emanuel is the kind of politician who is looking at the horizon while we are focused on the potholes.

At least if Rahm decides to run for president someday, residency won't be an issue. He has places in Chicago and Washington.

But I'm already trying to get a copy of his birth certificate just in case.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at and followed at