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Sep. 30 2009 - 12:30 pm | 5 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

New CTA chief Terry Peterson has ties to public housing corruption scandal

Terry Peterson

New CTA chief Terry Peterson

It seemed to work like this:

If you wanted to do business with the Chicago Housing Authority a few years back, you gave money to the 17th ward.

Strange, really. The 17th ward doesn’t contain a single unit of public housing.

So why would 63 CHA contractors regularly give gobs of cash to the 17th ward Democratic Organization?

One firm even got a contract worth $3 million the same day it just happened to make a $2,500 contribution to the 17th ward.

The connection? Terry Peterson, Daley’s new pick for head of the Chicago Transit Authority.


Peterson used to be the Alderman of the 17th ward and later became CEO
of the Chicago Housing Authority. As the head of CHA, the 17th ward
brought in numerous donations from CHA contractors, according to a 2005
investigation by the Residents’ Journal, the Sun Times, and the Better Government Association.

“From 2001 to 2004, the 17th Ward Democratic Organization took in a
total of $673,333.05, of which $225,318.32 – 33.46 percent – came from
contractors at the CHA.”

2005 was the most profitable year for contractor donations to the 17th
ward. That year they took in $70,445, and $42,850 of that – 60.8
percent – was from CHA contractors.

What happened? Not too much.

The investigation stated that Peterson could be at risk for violating the Hatch Act,
a piece of national legislation that prohibits employees of government
agencies that receive federal dollars from participating in some kinds
of political activities.

But as far as I can tell, Peterson was never charged with anything.

The donations? They stopped flowing in and became a slow trickle. The investigation states:

During the second one-half of 2005, the 17th Ward Democratic
Organization took in just $35,550. In a similar period of 2004, the
fund took in $161,383.33. During the last six months of 2003, the fund
took in $140,830. In the same period of 2002, the 17th Ward Democratic
Organization took in $148,425.

Guess the embarrassment stopped the money stream, but it didn’t hurt Peterson’s career much.  He became Daley’s campaign manager and sits on the 2016 Olympic committee.

The fact that the SunTimes uses the word “embarrassed” to describe this
scandal just plain weirds me out. No one should be embarrassed. Embarrassed is what you are when your fly is open. Peterson should be ashamed, and we should be outraged.

We’ve gotten too used to corruption in this town. An onslaught of
political contributions by business owners who just happen to receive
lucrative city contracts is nothing compared with a governor willing to
sell our President’s Senate seat. That doesn’t mean it’s nothing. 

No one at the CHA ever commented on the investigation. Neither did Peterson. Guess he wasn’t sorry. Just sorry he got caught.

CTA reporters and bloggers, keep an eye on those contracts. Pay-to-play isn’t one strategy in this town. It’s the entire game.


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  1. collapse expand
    Joe the Cop

    Excellent post! This is a perfect example of the corruption that permeates every single level of politics in Illinois. This is why nothing works the way it should here–not law enforcement, the schools, public housing, public transportation, you name it.

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    About Me

    I'm a journalist living in Chicago writing about poverty and public housing. I don't come from the streets - I grew up on a farm. But I'm passionate about urban issues and getting to know people who are completely different from me. I'm quirky, funny and friendly.

    I have this idea about journalism - that it should be approachable and less "newsy." I want my stories to make you laugh, cry and draw you in to neighborhoods and situations you don't deal with every day. I hate the broadcaster voice. I hate TV news. I hate the inverted pyramid. I love surprise. I love humor. I love people and telling their stories.

    In addition to being a journalist, I also teach dance for the Chicago Public Schools. I don't just do it for the money. I love children and love arts education. I'm also on the board of a new nonprofit dedicated to helping the underserved find jobs called Employing Hope. I write fiction, keep house, and am generally a renaissance woman.

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