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The [Wednesday] Papers

News broke this morning that the feds have indicted Ald. Willie Cochran (20th).

Score another one for the Beachwood Bookmaking Bureau. Jason Ervin, you're up next!

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Cochran's last appearance in the Beachwood was on October 25:

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That was six days after the Tribune reported that he was under investigation:

South Side Ald. Willie Cochran faces a federal criminal investigation into whether he improperly used campaign funds for personal expenses, say sources with knowledge of the probe.

The full scope of what a grand jury is looking into was not immediately known, but state records show the 20th Ward alderman has made dozens of revisions to his campaign reports over the past two years, often to show he had paid himself with campaign funds months earlier.

While the sources said the probe focuses on Cochran's alleged misuse of campaign contributions, a real estate developer told the Tribune on Tuesday that the FBI had questioned him about a donation to Cochran for a scholarship fund the alderman supports.

Alleged motive:

Court records hint at recent financial troubles for Cochran - he has been the target of three foreclosure lawsuits over his personal home and laundry businesses he held a financial stake in.

Cochran has paid himself more than $131,000 out of his campaign fund, nearly all of it since he won a second term in 2011, according to state campaign records.

Those records show Cochran has filed an unusually large number of revisions - 70 - to his campaign finance paperwork from January 2015 through July 2016. Over the previous eight years, Cochran had filed only six amendments to his campaign records.

In some of the amended campaign finance reports, Cochran revealed he had paid himself out of his campaign fund. In several instances, Cochran did not report those payments until well after he filed his campaign reports with state elections officials - in some cases more than a year or two later.

From 2012 through 2016, Cochran spent $397,574 in campaign funds. About one-third of that - $128,297 to be specific - went to himself, the records show.

It is not against state law for candidates to pay themselves from their campaign fund for working on their own election bid, but it is relatively rare. It's also unusual for candidates to pay themselves such a high percentage of the contributions.

Look, if you get into financial trouble and you're an elected official, your campaign fund is going to start looking attractive as a solution, at least for the short term. But what kind of lifestyle was he leading?

Cochran is paid $116,208 a year as alderman and also collects $60,280 annually from his police pension, records show. While many aldermen have rejected annual raises in recent years because of the city's financial struggles, Cochran has accepted all the raises.

In late 2014, he suggested aldermen should be paid more, saying he often works 60 hours a week or more.

I'm not convicting Cochran before we see more, I'm just sayin'.

Also, Chicago:

Cochran, a former police officer, was elected in 2007 after his predecessor, Ald. Arenda Troutman, was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges alleging she solicited donations from developers seeking to do business in the ward.

After Troutman's arrest, Cochran called on her to resign, telling the Tribune that "most people in the ward are tired of our public officials being embroiled in one controversy after another."

Troutman pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Look, Cochran isn't the sharpest tool in Rahm's shed. From the Beachwood, Nov. 13, 2008:

"Elephants have a tendency to sleep four hours, then they wake up," Ald. Willie Cochran said Wednesday, arguing against an elephant cruelty ordinance. "Professional trainers need that chain on those elephants at nighttime to keep them from disturbing other elephants. That way, all the elephants will get the appropriate amount of rest and they'll be able to train and perform properly.

"If you allow an elephant to roam freely at night and wake up all the other elephants, they don't listen as well . . . If they're not listening as well, they don't perform as well. If they don't perform as well, then there could be an incident that may involve the public . . . If something happens at Ringling Brothers, we'll find ourselves in a lawsuit."

Ald. Mary Ann Smith "called Cochran's sleep deprivation argument 'bogus' and hinted that it might have something to do with 'lobbying money' from the circus industry."

Let's give Cochran the benefit of the doubt and believe that he just happened to have taken notes from his own research on Ringling Bros. stationery.

From May 6, 2010:

"[Kenneth Austin is] just one of the relatives whom aldermen paid through their annual expense allowance of $73,280, according to a Tribune review of the 2009 accounts. Others are Angela Moore, the daughter of Ald. Willie Cochran, 20th, and Dorothy Burnett, the mother of Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th . . .

"Cochran paid his daughter about $19,000 from his expense account between January and August of last year to work as an aldermanic aide in his ward office. She was later moved from the expense account to the city's regular payroll, according to city officials.

"Cochran's daughter is a college graduate who previously ran a coin laundry owned by her father.

"'In this job, it is very important that you surround yourself with people you can trust,' Cochran said."

Is that what they taught you at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Willie, when you were earning your master's degree in public administration there?

From August 13, 2015:

"Ald. Willie Cochran, whose 20th Ward encompasses the Woodlawn TIF district, declined to talk to the Reporter."

Maybe he was too busy "Getting Things DONE!"

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Cochran's donors include: Rahm Emanuel, Ed Burke, Joe Berrios, Ringling Brothers Circus, Universal Circus and the fauxgressives at SEIU.

Why the circuses? Because.

My favorite part:

"In delaying the vote, Cochran said he was concerned that a ban on the use of chains and restraining devices that Smith wants could end up depriving elephants of sleep and, as a result, endanger circus patrons."

Willie Cochran, everybody.

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Then, In the wake of the Laquan McDonald video release, when Emanuel was at the height of his toxicity:

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Cochran did face moderate challenges in his last two races.

Cochran, who is considered an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, won a third term in office last year, surviving a tough runoff election against challenger Kevin Bailey.

More interesting was the race in 2011 when Rhymefest challenged Cochran, pitting the incumbent, a former cop, against someone who really understood the streets. To no avail; Cochran, backed by Emanuel, prevailed.

But even the Tribune wasn't impressed, casting its vote for the little-known third candidate in the primary . . .

20th Ward: We'd love to see Cook County Commissioner Jerry "Iceman" Butler get together with aldermanic candidate Che "Rhymefest" Smith and find out what kind of cross-generational music they'd come up with. As for the 20th Ward, Rhymefest isn't our candidate. He makes a believable argument that he has changed since he racked up convictions in 2001 for domestic violence and in 2005 for firing a gun. He's engaging, but we're not sure he would be an effective alderman. Ald. Willie Cochran, an ex-cop with a no-nonsense approach, has had some success in his first term. But why not aim higher? George Davis is an attorney who has an MBA and who has worked closely with The Woodlawn Organization. He knows the neighborhoods at a block level and has closely studied the city's complex financial challenges. He has a solid track record and sound ideas. Davis earns the endorsement.

. . . before turning to Cochran in the general.

It's tempting to go with the candidate who has won a Grammy Award. But the charming Che "Rhymefest" Smith just hasn't convinced us he would focus on the real job of being an alderman. We endorsed George Davis in the first round because we saw a very dynamic candidate, but that was a close call with Ald. Willie Cochran, a former police officer. Cochran has laid the groundwork in his first term for development of his struggling community, and he is endorsed.

In 2015, the Trib endorsed Cochran from the get-go, calling for a more holistic approach to crime in his ward even as Cochran was proposing more of the same: more cops, more cameras, longer prison sentences.

Some of the city's most startling murders in recent years have occurred in and around this ward. A 6-month-old baby was shot and killed while sitting on her father's lap in a parked car. Gunmen opened fire on a basketball game in a Back of the Yards park, hitting a 3-year-old boy in the face. He survived. Ald. Willie Cochran is vying for a third term. A retired police sergeant, he brings a well-rounded perspective to battling street violence. Only through a holistic approach of better schools, a stronger jobs climate and stable families will Chicago's most gang-infested neighborhoods get safer. Cochran has called for more police officers, installed more police cameras in the ward and supported tougher penalties for gang members caught with guns. He is endorsed over Kevin Bailey, a civil engineer, and pastor Andre Smith. Two others are on the ballot.

Cochran found himself in a runoff against Bailey, but it wasn't really as close as the Trib recalls - he notched 48% of the vote to Bailey's 20%.

In the runoff, Cochran won with 4,079 votes to Bailey's 3,267 votes.

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The Sun-Times supported Bailey:

Five candidates are running in this ward covering Woodlawn, Washington Park, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, New City and Back of the Yards, though just three appear to be actively campaigning.

For the endorsement, it's a toss up between Ald. Willie Cochran, a former police officer first elected in 2007, and newcomer to the ward, civil engineer Kevin Bailey.

Cochran is a thoughtful urban planner who knows his communities and crime prevention well and has helped bring infrastructure and improvements to the ward.

But he can be a bully, extremely difficult to work with and one can argue he's riding a wave of development and activity in parts of the ward, not driving it and even sometimes hindering it.

Then there's Bailey, a recent University of Illinois grad who worked for Union Pacific Railroad until recently.

Though new to the ward and politics, Bailey offers thoughtful ideas, pledges to be inclusive and listen and he has the smarts to learn on the job.

We're backing the promise of Bailey over an alderman who needs to learn how to get along.

Bailey doesn't yet have a solid grasp of the depth of the city's financial problems, suggesting that cost cutting and efficiencies are the answer. We trust he'll catch on quickly.

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The best of Cochran Twitter:

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Ambulance chaser.

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Aleppo

Slaughter Recorded In Real Time On Twitter - By Its Own Victims.

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Complete Meltdown Of Humanity.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tronc Line: Faithless.



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Posted on December 14, 2016


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