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February 2011 Archives

Alexis Madrigal a senior editor at The Atlantic, has the scoop: the man behind @MayorEmanuel is Dan Sinker, who teaches journalism at Chicago's Columbia College.

UPDATE During the campaign, Rahm Emanuel offered a $5,000 charitable donation to whoever unmasked the identity of @MayorEmanuel. On Monday, Emanuel spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement, "Now that the cat is out of the bag, the Mayor-elect will keep his commitment to donate $5,000 to the charity of Prof. Sinker's choice. Details to follow in the coming days." END UPDATE

UPDATE2 LaBolt told me it will be a personal donation from Emanuel, not from his campaign fund. END UPDATE2

Writes Madrigal: "The genius behind @MayorEmanuel is Dan Sinker, who has a heart made out of Chicago and balls of punk rock."

Sinker almost was outed, writes Madrigal: "What's stunning is that Sinker managed to preside over @MayorEmanuel without ever getting caught. Or at least outed. His secret was known only by his wife, a small circle of friends, and one Chicago Public Schools teacher, Seth Lavin, who figured out Sinker's identity when Sinker used his personal account to shorten a link that @MayorEmanuel later tweeted. Lavin kept it mum. Others came close to identifying him, Sinker said. An intern at the Wall Street Journal was onto him early, as was a reporter at Crain's Chicago Business. But no one could muster any proof."

WASHINGTON--Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina hit Chicago last week, taking meetings with big Democratic donors and scouting for some 50,000 square feet in the Loop for the Obama presidential campaign headquarters.

I talked to several people with knowledge of the Messina visit last Wednesday and Thursday. Traveling with him to Chicago were Rufus Gifford, who will be the 2012 Obama re-elect finance director and April Harley, the Illinois finance chair at the Democratic National Committee.

Messina is huddling with the big donor community--the Chicago fund-raising group was ground zero for Obama in 2008 with business mogul Penny Pritzer leading the drive--as he is trying to figure out how to energize the bundlers who play a critical role in major money fund-raising. Pritzker is going to be very helpful to Obama but will not reprise her role as national finance chair.

Jazzing up mega donors is on the to-do list. While some folks are on board, others already have their keepsake pictures with the Obamas--and plenty of events under their belts--and may or may not have gotten hoped for invites to Obama White House doings. .
Messina et al are also reaching out to figure ways to engage the CEOs and business leaders not in the Obama tent. Since there is no formal campaign structure in place yet, the Chicago visit was part of Messina's "touching base" with folks--some who he knew and others new faces.

A few weeks ago, Messina was in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston on prospecting missions.

In 2007, the Obama presidential campaign was headquartered at 233 N. Michigan.
The campaign took over a turn-key sublease from Accenture, renting 33,000 square feet with built out workstations, meeting rooms and space for the various departments of the Obama campaign.

Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel met formally with Mayor Richard Daley on Monday morning, to talk about the transition. Emanuel takes office in May, so it is a long on-ramp. Exclusive detail: The present and future mayor dined at Le Peep, 1000 W. Washington.

Daley is holding first news conference today since Emanuel's election

A readout from Emanuel communications chief Ben LaBolt:
"Mayor-elect Emanuel had breakfast with Mayor Daley today to discuss the transition and the challenges facing the city. They agreed to work together on the transition process. Mayor-elect Emanuel is grateful for Mayor Daley's offer of coordination and cooperation as the city enters a new chapter."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn interviewed at the White House by Politico's Mike Allen (Lynn Sweet there in the corner of the video frame)

WASHINGTON--The White House @PressSec twitter account transitions Monday afternoon to new press secretary Jay Carney, who will launch his era on WH Twitter by taking questions.

Video courtesy Politico

WASHINGTON--After Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a state income tax hike --raising the rate for business to 7 percent from 4.8 percent -- the individual rate rises to 5 percent from 3 percent -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels--all Republicans-- pitched Illinois business to move to their states. Christie was the most aggressive, running newspaper and radio ads in Illinois and stopping earlier this month at the Union League Club in Chicago.

At the National Governors Association winter meeting here, I asked several governors if these sales calls were unseemly; after all, the tables could be turned on them.

"It's all going on right now already. I just did it publicly," Christie told me. "You don't think it's going on privately in every state? It absolutely did. [Former Pennsylvania] Gov. [Ed] Rendell poached an enormous amount of business from New Jersey during his time as governor. This stuff happens all the time privately, I just did it publicly."

Daniels told me, "I think it is the most appropriate thing we do . . . build a good business climate and go find people who want to take advantage of it."

At the opening session press conference on Saturday, I asked Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat and the NGA chair, what she thought of governors coming to Illinois to steal jobs.

"Going over and stealing from someplace else really isn't the future for them," Gregoire said. "Their future is building their own economic stability inside their state . . . my policy as governor is anybody who wants to come to Washington State is welcome. I am not out trying to steal a company from my colleagues."

NGA co-chair, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman responded that it is okay to poach "I believe in competition among the states and among the countries." He then gave out his phone number.

WASHINGTON--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has received a lot of congratulatory calls in the wake of his clinching Chicago's City Hall, including one from CIA Chief Leon Panetta. Panetta and Emanuel worked in the Clinton White House; Panetta was Clinton's chief of staff.

WASHINGTON--When it comes to remapping congressional districts following the 2010 census, where Illinois will lose a seat, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn told me he will not allow a repeat of what happened after the 2000 census when the House incumbents -- Democrats and Republicans -- cut deals with other to try to create safe districts for themselves.

"I don't think it is right that the incumbent members just draw the districts as they did last time, and hand it over to the speaker of the [Illinois] House and the president of the [Illinois] Senate" for approval. "I don't think that is the way to go, that is not the way it is supposed to go. . . . So we will try to have a map that does not have so many unusual lines."

It's not clear yet where the seat will be lost -- or how the Hispanic and suburban population gains will be treated when it comes to drawing new districts. Said Quinn, "My job is to make sure it is fair and competitive."

WASHINGTON -- As GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues in a standoff with labor, Democratic Illinois Gov. Quinn told me some GOP governors are on an "ideological crusade" to strip away union collective-bargaining rights in order to reduce the political power of organized labor.

Quinn flew in Friday for the National Governors Association winter meeting, piggybacking visits to the White House and Capitol Hill and working in some politics. He huddled with national union leaders as tens of thousands in Madison, Wis., protest Walker's bid to take away most collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

This comes as some Democratic state lawmakers from Wisconsin and Indiana have holed up in Illinois in order to deny quorums back in their state legislatures.

Unions -- especially public employee unions -- are a major source of Democratic votes, political contributions and campaign foot soldiers. The political clout of these unions could be diminished if union collective-bargaining laws are weakened.

"I think some of the animus against the unions, the public employee unions, is motivated by their political activities in the past, and I don't think that is right," Quinn told me.

"I have had strong disagreements on policy with AFSCME. They did not support our public pension reform at all, nor did the teachers unions, both IEA and IFT, but we were able to get that done and signed into law and we worked with them on a variety of other issues. But clearly some of the other Republican governors are on an ideological crusade."

Obama Feb. 28 week ahead

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quinn white house.JPGIllinois Gov. Pat Quinn at the White House (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, at the White House on Friday said working with Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel would be "fun."

Quinn and Emanuel have known each other for years and they share a close friend in common--former White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod, who left the White House a few weeks ago to return to Chicago.

On working with Emanuel, Quinn said,"It should be a lot of fun. I've known Rahm Emanuel for 31 years, so I have a lot of experience. He's a man of great energy and idealism. As mayor of Chicago and I'm governor of Illinois, I think we can do a lot of good things"

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has an estimated $2.1 million left in his political warchest, spokesman Ben LaBolt said on Friday--a formidable pot of money to spread around the April aldermanic run-off campaigns, fund messaging drives for his mayoralty and to keep rivals at bay.

This from LaBolt: "In response to a request from many of you, I wanted to provide an estimate of cash-on-hand remaining in the campaign fund. It's only an estimate because we have subtracted what we know are the outstanding expenditures, but there could be something we are missing and the final report with all of the expenditures is not immediately due.

The estimate of cash-on-hand remaining is $2.1 million -- and again I caution you that the final number could be slightly different when all is said and done."

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli is closed and the U.S. is seeking "unilateral" sanctions against Libya in the wake of strongman Qadhafi's violent crackdown on protestors.

Never a time when "this much done so quickly," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Friday.

Said Carney: "The State Department has suspended embassy operations in Libya and will temporarily withdraw all embassy employees from Tripoli. A ferry with approximately 200 U.S. citizens left this morning. A charter plane recently took off for Istanbul,
Turkey, with remaining embassy personnel and American citizens who had
requested evacuation."

WASHINGTON--The Obama White House third Social Secretary, Jeremy Bernard, is a man--and openly gay. His appointment, announced on Friday, breaks through two glass ceilings--he is the first man and the first openly gay person to serve on the job. First Lady Michelle Obama, whose East Wing handles social and special events, oversaw the selection process.

"I look forward to working with Jeremy to continue the great work of the Social Office, from fun and educational student workshops to elegant State Dinners that welcome world leaders to the White House. Jeremy's creativity, perspective and skills will be a welcome addition to our East Wing team, as we showcase the White House and celebrating America's arts and culture," said Tina Tchen, the Chicago lawyer who is the Mrs. Obama's chief of staff. i.

Bernard succeeds Julianna Smoot, who is leaving to become deputy director of Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and Chicago businesswoman Desiree Rogers, who was the Obama administration first Social Secretary and now a top executive at Johnson Publications.

Click below for White House release on Bernard

Obama on Motown's legacy. Transcript

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WASHINGTON--Another Chicagoan tapped for the Obama White House, Dr. Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, for the National Cancer Advisory Board.

below, from the White House....

Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, Appointee for Member, National Cancer Advisory Board

Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade is the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine & Human Genetics, Associate Dean for Global Health, and Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago. She is also a practicing clinician and Director of the University's Cancer Risk Clinic. In her clinical work, Dr. Olopade is an authority on cancer risk assessment, prevention, and individualized treatment based on risk factors and quality of life. She also works with educators, doctors, government officials and pharmaceutical companies to improve access to quality education and medical care in low-income communities. Dr. Olopade has received numerous professional honors and awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the ASCO Young Investigator Award, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award, and the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, among others. She holds an M.B.B.S. from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, completed her residency in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in hematology and oncology at the University of Chicago.

rahm bulls.jpeg (photo courtesy of a Lynn Sweet friend brother-in-law. )

Mayor elect Rahm Emanuel, multi-tasking at the Bulls-Heat game on Thursday clutching his blackberry courtside.

WASHINGTON--Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is flying to Washington on Friday morning for the National Governors Association meeting. He'll be at the White House with other Democratic governors later today to meet with President Obama. Quinn is scheduled to be part of a press availability with other Dem governors at the White House after the Obama meeting. This is the first time Quinn is at the NGA as a governor elected in his own right---not as the lieutenant governor who was promoted after Rod Blagojevich was impeached.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama hosted high students from Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles and D.C. at the White House on Thursday for an afternoon music workshop paying tribute to the "Motown" sound with singers John Legend and Nick Jonas.

Mrs. Obama told the teens, "The Motown story is really a metaphor for life."

Chicago high schools sending students were DuSable Leadership Academy, Hyde Park Academy, Kenwood Academy, Northside College Preparatory, Wendell Phillips and the Young Women's Leadership Charter School of Chicago.

The workshop was in advance of an evening concert at the White House honoring Motown music, a pioneering black record company. Mrs. Obama called Motown artist Smokey Robinson and company founder Berry Gordy "true trailblazers" at the afternoon session with some 120 students. Gordy founded the first African American owned record label out of his Detroit apartment in 1960 with a $800 family loan.

Some of the top Motown artists: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Jackson Five, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Supremes and Stevie Wonder.

Performers at the concert--"The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House"-- include Smokey Robinson, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Gloriana, Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks.

Mrs. Obama told the students that they could draw inspiration from Motown.

"But the thing that I want you all to remember is that nobody's name is printed on the Billboard Top 10 at birth. Nobody is born into this. Neither Mr. Gordy nor Smokey Robinson were born into greatness or wealth. Diana Ross grew up in a housing project. And John Legend is the son of a seamstress and a factory worker. And they are good people.

"But they've shown us that with enough hard work and a willingness to take some risks, anyone can make it. And this isn't just true for careers in entertainment or sports. The Motown story is really a metaphor for life."

Click below for the transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks

follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @lynnsweet

Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel named his transition co-chairs on Thursday:

at the click, Emanuel release....

WASHINGTON--A year ago, First Lady Michelle Obama was a great "get" for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, guesting on his FOX News show to talk about her anti-obesity "Let's Move" program. Huckabee has been returning the favor, defending her from conservative critics. The latest attacks on Mrs. Obama have come from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) and radio personality Rush Limbaugh, following a story I did about Mrs. Obama and breast feeding.

Huckabee did not mention them by name during a reporter breakfast Wednesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, where he also said he will take his time to decide whether he will run again for president in 2012.

Said Huckabee: "I still think her approach is the right one. I do not think that she is out there advocating that the government take over our dinner plates. In fact, she has not. She has been criticized unfairly by a lot of my fellow conservatives. I think it is out of a reflex rather than out of a thoughtful expression, and that is one of the things that bug me most about the political environment of the day."

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for rahm rosa stan.JPGEmanuel pollster Stan Greenberg leaning against a wall with wife Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) at Monday Emanuel event in North Park Village.(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's Washington D.C. polling team over at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner bragged a little on Wednesday after Emanuel clinched the mayors race on Tuesday. See the statement from the firm at the click.

Stan Greenberg and wife Rep. Rosa DeLauro are friends of Emanuel and were in Chicago for the closing days of the campaign. The picture above was taken at an event Monday at North Park Village.

Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel remains under defense subpoena in Rod Blagojevich's April retrial on corruption charges. Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki, stationed at Emanuel's victory party Tuesday night, asked former White House senior advisor David Axelrod--a close Emanuel pal--about the case. Read her post on the exchange here.

Korecki reports on this and more: "When asked if Emanuel could take the stand in Blagojevich's case, Axelrod shrugged it off. "I really don't know. Whatever happens happens. But I have every confidence that it won't amount to much," Axelrod said.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg welcomed Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel into the frat of big city mayors; Emanuel just sent out this message, via Twitter, "@MikeBloomberg Thanks, look forward to talking ideas with you."

Federal prosecutors dropped a few charges against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, not to do him any favors--but to make the case simpler for jurors in his upcoming Spring retrial, reports Chicago Sun-Times federal court reporter Natasha Korecki.

Last year, Blagojevich was convicted of only one of 24 counts.

WASHINGTON--At the Wednesday briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is asked indirectly if President Obama will attend Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's swearing-in ceremony in Chicago in May. Obama called Emanuel on Tuesday night to congratulate his former chief of staff after he clinched the race.

From the briefing...

Q And one more, Jay. The President is going to the United Kingdom May 24 to 26. Will he be in Chicago on the 16th? Any plans to be there?

MR. CARNEY: Is that a trick question? (Laughter.)

Q Is the President planning to be in Chicago for Mayor --

MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything on his schedule.

Q Did he call Rahm?

MR. CARNEY: He did call and congratulate Rahm.

Q What did he say?

MR. CARNEY: He congratulated him on his victory. And I believe we put out a statement -- the President put out a statement.

Q How long was the conversation?

Q Did he phone him?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. I don't have -- I actually don't know how long.

CHICAGO--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel told me over the weekend that if he is elected mayor, he would not be seeking higher office.

"This is it," he told me.

While covering Emanuel campaigning at the Target on 85th and Cottage Grove on Saturday, I chatted with Emanuel about his mayoral bid.

If elected, I wondered, how long would he stick on the job?

Emanuel said he did not want to be presumptuous -the election had not happened yet but "Assuming that was to happen, I am not running for anything else. I'm done. This is it. This is the last thing I want to do in my public life and I'm putting all my efforts into this. ....I could see the energy level for what two terms would require."

CHICAGO--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, freshing from thumping his rivals in the Tuesday election, started Wednesday with a workout at the East Bank Club and then an "El" stop at 95th and the Dan Ryan. He'll have a press conference in the morning in the Loop.

"It's a Rahmp" Sun-Times front page

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CHICAGO--Former White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod said President Obama's "testimonial" to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was "very important" to him winning the mayoral race on Tuesday.

The day Emanuel left the White House--Oct. 1--Obama hosted a departure ceremony for Emanuel in the East Room and delivered a speech praising his chief of staff. Emanuel made extensive use of that material in commercials and direct mail for his campaign.

Axelrod, asked about the impact of Obama in the mayoral campaign at his election night victory party here said, "Barack Obama is a very beloved figure in this city and his testimonial to Rahm I think was very important."

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following
statement tonight after former Congressman Rahm Emanuel was elected Mayor of

"The people of Chicago have elected a true representative of their best hopes
and aspirations, a dedicated public servant, and a proud Chicagoan. I offer my
warmest congratulations to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and to his family.

"Rahm Emanuel was a passionate, committed advocate for the people of Chicago
during his service in the House of Representatives. As White House Chief of
Staff, he continued to advance the goals of good jobs for our workers, fairness
for our families, and opportunity for all. He will build on that record of
leadership, achievement, and progress as the next Mayor of his hometown.

Statement of the President on the Election of Rahm Emanuel

I want to extend my congratulations to Rahm Emanuel on a well-deserved victory tonight. As a Chicagoan and a friend, I couldn't be prouder. Rahm will be a terrific mayor for all the people of Chicago.

CHICAGO--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel won the six-way race for mayor because "he ran a textbook campaign," said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) who followed Emanuel in Congress when he gave up his House seat to become President Obama's White House chief of staff.

Ten reasons why Emanuel won:

1. Millions of dollars: Emanuel overwhelmed his rivals from the start with his formidable fund-raising ability. He took advantage of Illinois laws that allowed six-figure donations until Dec. 31.

2. He had a professional campaign, sprung almost full born from the day he started running: press, policy, fund-raising, you name it.

3. A potentially strong rival, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart decided not to run.

4. Chicago's black community never organized strongly behind former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) the nation's first African American female senator.
This 2011 election was nowhere near a repeat of 1983, when Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor, was elected.

5. He had the overt endorsement of President Clinton.

6. He had the de facto endorsement of President Obama, the nation's first black president and a Chicagoan. Emanuel was able to run strongly in the city's black wards.

7. Emanuel's abrasive edge was tempered by a circus of a residency challenge which made him into a sympathetic character. Emanuel was disciplined enough not to display in public any use of foul language or brusque behavior. Emanuel also displayed his nicer side when he first ran for the House in 2002.

8. Emanuel had the support of Chicago's business establishment.

9. Emanuel had the money to run more television spots than any rivals.

10. Emanuel was not dependent on any ward organization or specific unions and created his own organization to win.

CHICAGO--Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel talked to rival Gery Chico, who came in second place in Tuesday's election, which Emanuel is winning with a commanding lead, at least 55.63 percent.

CHICAGO--Enough returns are in that it seems mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel is in the clear and will win outright tonight. Former White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod--a good Emanuel friend--is at the Plumber Hall election night event.

rahm family.jpegRahm Emanuel and his family election night: Sun-Times photo in laptop by Sun-Times photographer John Kim. (this photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--It's looking good for mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel to clinch. With 55.7 percent of the vote, Emanuel has 54 percent; if he is over 50 percent, he avoids a runoff. A sign that the Emanuel camp is confident...photographers have just beem summoned for a photo op.

rahm jan.jpgRep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) at Rahm Emanuel election night headquarters (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--I'm at mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel election night headquarters at Plumbers Hall on the Near West Side. For my out of town readers, this is a few blocks from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios. The Plumbers were the first union to endorse Emanuel--

UPDATE--Emanuel press chief Ben LaBolt hanging around press filing usual....dressed up in suit and tie.... END UPDATE

.Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is here pulling early election duty, an Emanuel supporter giving out interviews about Emanuel for those who have to file early or broadcasters who need something now.

CNN's Jessica Yellin is doing live shots from here.....local Chicago political television reporters Mary Ann Ahern from NBCChicago5 is here as is Charles Thomas from ABC7. ... Reporters from DePaulia, the DePaul U. student paper here is Politico's Meredith Shiner, fresh from reporting the demonstrations in Madison.

CHICAGO--With a big mayoral contest--voter turnout is on the light side so far Tuesday, according to reports via @LynnSweet and my own reporting.

Here are reports--straight from the precincts--from some of my followers:

@lynnsweet just voted in 44th -- very very quiet
about 1 hour ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to lynnsweet

@lynnsweet 8am in River West. No one was there. 12 paper ballots had been submitted. Not sure about the 1 electronic box.

@lynnsweet As a judge I can tell you it is Slow in the 43rd Ward.

@lynnsweet quiet at Temple Shalom. 46th ward, pct 43. People need to vote

follow me on Twitter: @LynnSweet

Chicago mayoral election today

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Thumbnail image for mayor debate1.jpeg(Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

For the first time since 1989, Chicago will have a new mayor.

Either way, a milestone for the city. The possibilities....

Rahm Emanuel, first Jewish mayor
Carol Moseley Braun, first female African American mayor
Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, first Hispanic mayor

The last day of the campaign story is here, reported by Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch and Fran Spielman.

Mayoral candidate photo gallery is here.

Lynn Sweet blog Chicago mayoral pictures and posts is here


In Chicago, (312) 269-7870; Hearing impaired, (312) 269-0027. In Cook County suburbs, (312) 603-0906; Spanish language, (312) 603-6767; Disabilities, (312) 603-0929; Hearing impaired, (312) 603-0902.

In collar counties, Lake (847) 377-2314


State Board of Elections: (312) 263‑7367

In Chicago, (312) 269-7870; Hearing impaired, (312) 269-0027. Cook County: (312) 603-0236; Hearing impaired, (312) 603-0902.



Suburban Cook:

Lake County:

CHICAGO--The last Rahm Emanuel photo op of the day: Election eve, at a phone bank at 120 W. Adams in the Loop, making calls as a gang of reporters and son Zach look on.

IMG00455-20110221-1903.jpg(photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG00456-20110221-1906.jpg(photo by Lynn Sweet)

IMG00457-20110221-1907.jpg(photo by Lynn Sweet)

rahm jesse jackson.JPGRahm Emanuel and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, a backer of mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel's campaign was surprised when high profile backers of rival Carol Moseley Braun--Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) showed up a the South Side restaurant where his campaign planned a photo op of him dining with supporters in an African American neighborhood.

Emanuel was dining with a campaign co-chair, Zipporah Hightower and her son, Jack at the Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffle at 3747 S. Martin Luther King Dr., not far from Jackson's Operation PUSH headquarters at 930 E. 50th St.

Jackson was already seated when Emanuel came in and Rush followed a little later. Things got a little raucous. "Everybody for Carol, up on your feet," Rush called out, with Jackson and chunk of the room standing up as Emanuel munched on his lunch.

"This is a favorite eating place on the South Side," said Jackson. "He comes as a tourist, we come as residents" (An Emanuel spokesman said he has been to the Chicken and Waffle two or three times.)

Rush lobbed another shot at Emanuel on his way out. Speaking to reporters he said, "I don't expect I'll see him here again. This is a one shot," but at least the publicity may "help a black business," Rush said.

Emanuel in response, outside the restaurant: "They can say whatever they want, everybody can do whatever they want. It actually was very nice and spirited because guess what, Chicago matters and it is worth fighting for Chicago. And that has been my attitude. So it does not matter what anybody says or what they say about me. Cause if we don't turn this city around, it is going to be harder on their kids."

rahm carol sign.JPGCorner of 39th and Cottage Grove, 1:52 p.m. Chicago time, day before election day, 2011. (Photo by Lynn Sweet)

FOOTNOTE: The food looked great and I would have stayed on for lunch but the line for seats was too long.

follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet

Thumbnail image for rahm rosa stan.JPGRahm Emanuel at North Park Village; in background, against the wall, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and husband, pollster Stan Greenberg. Man in suit taking notes, Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--Over at North Park Village--once the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium--a campus with senior citizen housing and city recreation facilities--and its own flock of honking geese--Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) and her husband, pollster Stan Greenberg watched mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel campaign on Monday morning.

Emanuel did not point them out to the crowd and they stood by a wall unnoticed, taking in a slice of Chicago politics. Emanuel was introduced by Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th). Also there: State Rep. John D'Amico (D-Chicago)

Greenberg is Emanuel's pollster. Emanuel is longtime friends with the couple--he lived for a time in their basement apartment in Washington. Asked, got no predictions from Greenberg re the mayoral race.

Joining Emanuel at the event were two of his three kids, son Zach and daughter Ilana.

rahm target .JPGRahm Emanuel campaigning at Target, 85th and Cottage Grove, on Saturday. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--The last thing the Rahm Emanuel mayoral camp wants is raised expectations about the Tuesday mayoral balloting here. Emanuel is in a position to win the contest outright--if he gets more than 50 percent of the vote. If not, the top two vote getters go to an April 5 runoff. If Emanuel does well--comes in first--but not pass 50 percent--will he seem somehow falling short? That's a perception issue.

On Monday, at North Park Village, Emanuel--in the heart of what was his congressional district-- was asked about whether he could clinch Tuesday.

"This is a big election and I want people to participate in that election by showing up and voting," he said.

Over the weekend, Emanuel campaigned on the South Side and on Saturday got a warm reception at the Target at 85th and Cottage Grove. For my overview story on Emanuel and the mayoral race, click here.

CHICAGO--At earlier stages in his career--when he still needed help from local figures-- President Obama either worked with or asked for and received the endorsements of three major Chicago mayoral hopefuls--Carol Moseley Braun, Miguel del Valle and Gery Chico.

In a revealing story by Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch, contenders Del Valle, Braun and Chico talk about the Obama back stabbing.

On Obama's way up--including the early stages of his pitched presidential primary campaign with Hillary Rodham Clinton--front-runner Rahm Emanuel stayed under a desk.
Obama has done a political sleight of hand with his nonendorsement endorsement for his former chief of staff--allowing Emanuel to make campaign ads of the warm send off he hosted for him when he left the White House, an event designed in part to yield material for ads--and let Obama make the weak argument that he stayed above the fray.

Obama Feb. 21 week ahead

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The fake Rahm twitter feed @MayorEmanuel, took notice of the picture I posted earlier Sunday of a young Rahm Emanuel in his ballet tights (from Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallash's story about mayoral candidates as youngsters). I can't tell you what he said because he uses the F word too much and I hesitate to use it on my blog. Anyway, @MayorEmanuel challenged me to a dance off. And if it is to rock and roll tunes....maybe I'll do it.

Anyway, Emanuel told Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper on his radio show that he would make a donation to charity if the fake Rahm would reveal his or her identify.

Roeper wrote on Feb. 16: "In the Twitterverse, there are two main Rahm Emanuels -- the actual candidate for mayor, and the guy or gal who's been doing an extended, obscenity-riddled, hilarious impersonation of Rahm on Twitter since last September."

Follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet

rahm ballet.jpeg(photo courtesy Rahm Emanuel)

Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch reports on the youthful activities of the Chicago mayoral candidates, including the ballet dancing years of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, with a very interesting photo of him in his dancing tights.

The Vail Daily News is reporting the First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters are in Vail and Beaver Creek for a Presidents Day long weekend of skiing. The White House on Saturday only said Mrs. Obama and Malia and Sasha are in Colorado; a pretty big state. But it is hard to land a Boeing C-32 with the "United States of America" painted on the plane and not get noticed.

From the Vail Daily News: A motorcade of about a dozen vehicles, including 15 state and local law enforcement officers, traveled from the Eagle County Regional Airport to Vail on Friday night, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Roads were temporarily blocked to make way for the motorcade in Eagle.

rahm hyde park.JPG Emanuel at his Hyde Park campaign office (photo by Lynn Sweet)

rahm hyde park2.JPG(photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, on Saturday blasted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's move against state unions, which have triggered mass protests in Madison.

Emanuel was asked about the Wisconsin situation by reporters at his Hyde Park campaign office--down the street from the Museum of Science and Industry and near the Lake Michigan shore. Emanuel stopped at the office as he sought to get out the vote on the South Side in advance of Tuesday's election to replace Mayor Daley, who is retiring.

"I think what the governor there is doing is not just fiscal, but a political agenda. That's not what we are about.

" ...I would totally approach reject the approach the governor of Wisconsin has taken," Emanuel said.

He added "I totally reject the notion that it would happen here," while cautioning the city would have to "live within our means."

Over the long Presidents Day weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama took daughters Malia and Sasha on a Colorado ski trip. President Obama filled in as a coach at Sasha's regular Saturday basketball game in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase.

Pool report:

Motorcade left Jane Lawton Community Center at 9:59 a.m. after the
basketball game for an uneventful return to the White House.
Presidential SUV stopped at the diplomatic entrance at 10:25 a.m. No
pool contact with POTUS.

Upon return to WH, an administration official provided the following
information on background. "Today the president helped coach Sasha's
basketball team filling in for the regular parent coach. The First
Lady and the Obama daughters are on a private family trip to Colorado.
The First Lady and several close friends are chaperoning their
children on a ski trip."

So Sasha was not at the game. No word on whether Coach Obama's team
won. No word on the ski resort

obama facebook.jpg
from the White House: President Barack Obama talks with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg before a dinner with Technology Business Leaders in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011. Also pictured, left to right, are Carol Bartz, Yahoo! President and CEO; Art Levinson, Genentech Chairman and former CEO; Steve Westly, Founder and Managing Partner, The Westly Group; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and CEO of Google. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

twitter, facebook obama.jpghe President toasts w/ heads of @Twitter, @Facebook, other t... on Twitpic">

rahm hq1.JPG

CHICAGO--Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel is running his campaign from offices in a Chicago landmark, the old Carson Pirie Scott & Company building on State Street, designed by the great architect Louis Sullivan.

Emanuel's staffers work in very nice space --a modern custom interior--the campaign rented turnkey a sublet that used to house an architectual firm.

Emanuel works from a windowless office, sparsely furnished. Unlike his office as White House chief of staff, it is not loaded with mementoes and pictures of his family.

rahm hq5.JPG(photo by Lynn Sweet)

The Emanuel headquarters has offices for field, fund-raising, special events, policy, politics, press staffs, volunteers and more. Below is Emanuel's communications chief Ben LaBolt, who he recruited from the White House.

rahm hq6.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Take a look around the rest of the place:

Thumbnail image for rahm hq4.JPG(photo by Lynn Sweet)

rahm hq2.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

rahm hq3.JPG (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Obama at Intel. Transcript

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle have two international trips coming up, to Latin America in March and the United Kingdom in May.

The First Couple travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador March 19-23.

"The trip will provide an opportunity to engage key bilateral partners, to highlight the President's engagement with the hemisphere, and to advance our efforts to work as equal partners to address the basic challenges facing the people of the Americas. The visit will include events in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and San Salvador," the White House said. on Friday.

The First Couple accepted an invite from Her Majesty the Queen, and will fly to the UK for a state visit on May 24-26.

"This trip will be President Obama's first European state visit, a sign of the strength of the special relationship between our two countries, and of the United States' enduring commitment to its European and NATO allies and partners," the White House said.

President Obama, with an eye on 2012 fund-raising for his re-election campaign, is using his visit at Intel Corp., outside of Portland Oregon, to stroke potential donors and bundlers.

Professional fund-raisers for the Democratic National Committee--including the DNC's Autumn Sample--were authorized to invite prospects--folks who were part of the massive 2008 high dollar Obama for American fund-raising drive-- to the Intel event.

The high dollar prospects were invited to Intel to hear Obama's speech and then hang around for a smaller, more exclusive "meet and greet" with the president.

No one will be asking for donations. It's too soon. The Obama 2012 presidential campaign is not organized enough yet to collect donations. The DNC folks are just warming up the prospects and sizing up who will be taking on leadership roles in the money hunt.

This comes as DNC Finance Director Rufus Gifford--in line to be the finance director of the 2012 campaign--has already been on prospecting swings with Jim Messina, who will be the 2012 campaign manager. After trips earlier this month to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York--the Chicago event was snowed out--Messina is vacationing in Africa for a bit before the official kick off of the re-elect.

At the Intel event, Obama is appointing Intel CEO Paul Otellini to his newly created Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Here is what the White House said officially about the Intel visit....

This Friday, the President will travel to Hillsboro, Oregon and visit Intel Corporation where he will tour the world's most advanced semiconductor manufacturing facility with Intel CEO Paul Otellini. The President will also learn more about Intel's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education programs and Intel's efforts to better prepare people to compete for high-tech jobs and be the minds behind the next great inventions. He will then make remarks about the importance of out-educating the competition in order to win the future.

As he laid out in his State of the Union address and in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget released this week, President Obama believes that in order to win the future for this generation and the next, we must win the race to educate our kids. His plan calls for key investments in education to grow the economy and create the jobs and industries of the future by doing what America does best - investing in the creativity and imagination of our people. Intel has committed to investing more than $6 billion in their U.S.-based manufacturing facilities to support future technology advancements in Arizona and Oregon, creating more than 6,000 construction jobs and more than 800 permanent high-tech jobs. The President's remarks will also be streamed live at

The Administration has made important strides in achieving President Obama's goal of challenging the status quo in education and driving forward reform in our nation's schools. Today's economy demands a workforce that is smart, skilled, creative and equipped for success in a global marketplace. Building on the success of Race to the Top, he is calling on Congress to re-define and right-size the federal role in education, by replacing No Child Left Behind with a new law that raises expectations, challenges failure, rewards success, and provides greater flexibility for schools to innovate and improve results for their students. The President is also pledging to prepare an additional 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and math teachers by the end of the decade. To help restore America's global leadership in higher education, the President will continue efforts to strengthen the Pell Grant program and is calling on Congress to make permanent his American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth $10,000 for four years of college.

Companies like Intel are helping us achieve these important education and innovation goals. They know that government and industry must work together so that America can out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of world. Over the past decade, Intel and the Intel Foundation have invested more than $1 billion toward improving education. In 2010, in conjunction with President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign, Intel announced a 10-year, $200 million commitment to advance education in math and science in the U.S. Intel is also one of four founding companies of Change the Equation, a CEO-led initiative designed to answer the president's call to move the U.S. to the top in science and math education over the next decade.


mayor debate1.jpegChicago mayoral candidates at last debate (Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart)

The lead on the Chicago Sun-Times Chicago mayoral debate story by Abdon M. Pallasch and Fran Spielman:
"As chief of staff to President Obama, Rahm Emanuel slapped down every attempt to help the plight of illegal immigrants, his three rivals said during the last mayoral debate Thursday night."

Read the story here.

CHICAGO--Mayoral frontrunner Rahm Emanuel made no mistakes during the last major debate on Thursday, taking hits from his three main rivals, Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, who each carved out a rationale for their candidacies.

No winners, no losers.

With Emanuel in a position to clinch on Tuesday, del Valle and Chico were most explicit in post debate interviews with reporters in pleading for more time for them to make their case. If no one gets more than 50 percent on Tuesday, the top two vote getters face a run-off on April 5.

Each candidate did well for themselves--there were no gaffes, but neither Del Valle, Braun or Chico figured out a way to mount any compelling new argument against Emanuel that would seem to have traction at this late stage of the campaign.

Del Valle did well for himself--lumping Chico and Emanuel together and casting himself as an alternative.

Del Valle said Emanuel and Chico are "cut from the same" cloth and that he represents the only true alternative, both of whom made a "ton of money" from their government contacts.

"This election has to go to a run-off," he said. "I am the alternative to the Gery Chico--Rahm Emanuel combination."

Chico claimed that he was able to put Emanuel on the defensive and the debate showed that voters needed more time to consider their choices, all a "compelling reason for a run-off."

After being hit by Braun for his record concerning African Americans, Emanuel cited a number of programs he backed....childrens health insurance, anti-smoking programs that helped African American youth.

mayor debate.JPGLast Chicago mayoral debate, Oriental Theatre, Chicago (photo by Lynn Sweet)

Chicago Sun-Times mayoral coverage team at the debate: City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman, Political Reporter Abdon M. Pallasch (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--The four major candidates for Chicago mayor are doing one minute opening statements.

7:01 Chicago time
Miguel del Valle, Gery Chico bland openers.
Rahm Emanuel--the front-runner--nothing special
Carol Moseley Braun--in a new hairstyle and new highlights (I would note a new look for a man)...crisply summed up her biography...and makes the best pitch in the opener.

All Emanuel has to do in this debate is play it safe--he is the front-runner.

7:10 Chicago time...
Question on taxes
Chico attacks...not strongly...Emanuel...for his sales tax plans...Emanuel ignores Chico when it is his turn....and....recaps his tax-the-rich plan--increase taxes for corporate jets, animal grooming and country clubs--he singles out Saddle and Cycle on the North Side...
Braun used the question to recap her credentials....was on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, ran budgets at U.S. Embassy as ambassador and at the Record of Deeds...
Del Valle gently aiming at Emanuel, says the Illinois General Assemby will never approve Emanuel's tax policies.....

7:20 Chicago time...
The question is do the candidates support a head tax and city residency requirements.

residency rules...keep

Del Valle....
head tax for big employers
did not say his position about residency

head tax...would eliminate
residency...not sure, would take a look at arguments for and against.

head tax..would eliminate
residency....not clear from his answer what his position is.

7:34 Chicago time...
Will get back with answers to questions about who the contenders would put in their kitchen cabinet...but first...Emanuel was asked just what he did to quickly make at least $18 million when he left the Clinton White House....."What was he doing for people to make that kind of money?"

Emanuel gave a fairly lame answer here....mentioned that he helped create Exelon ....and kept their headquarters in Chicago...(did not mention the folks who got laid-off in the deal) and then quickly switched to mentioning he was the vice chair of the Chicago Housing Authority...which was a non-paying job (and thus not responsive to the question) and he taught at Northwestern..(but that was just a course and not the basis of his fortune)

....Chico notes that Emanuel did not mention that he was on the Freddie Mac board...(and made a bundle for just attending meetings).....Braun wonders what skills Emanuel brought to these deals since he was not a MBA or CPA and then pivots to Emanuel voting against the Congressional Black Caucus position 128 times .....

7:45 Chicago time....
Who would put in "kitchen" cabinet

Del Valle..."people in the neighborhoods" and open up to more people than Mayor Daley..."that's why Gery Chico got appointed to everything."

Chico...Paul Vallas, B. Herbert Martin, Luis Gutierrez...

Emanuel...Mike Koldyke...Rev. Brazier, Dave Mosena...

Braun...her sister, a Cook County States Attorney, brother who is a cop, Renee Ferguson, her spokesman and John Rogers, chief of Ariel Investments.

7:56 Chicago time....
There was an immigration question...rivals hit Emanuel gently on his record in Congress and in the Obama White House, Emanuel defends slam as blocking immigration reform, noting no one since former President Ronald Reagan was able to overhaul the law.
Updated...Emanuel is accused of putting the Dream Act on the back burner as President Obama's White House chief of staff....Emanuel says he would back a Chicago dream act and making Chicago a sanctuary city...This is an area where Emanuel is vulnerable...

Closing statements...

Del Valle...calls for change "It's time Chicago!"

Braun....Egyptians demanded democracy ..."and they got it"...asks voters to "fight the power," a presumed reference to Emanuel. "We will bring democracy to Chicago...

Chico..the city "is not working for you"

Emanuel ..."denial is not a long term strategy"

Closing statements...

Del Valle..."It's time, Chicago" a call for change
Braun...refers to Egypt, time to "have democracy in Chicago"
Chico.. city "we love" is not "working for you."
Emanuel... "denial is not a strategy."

All four candidates are doing post debate interviews now...
Braun, Del Valle, Chico..Emanuel next...

CHICAGO--Some 2,000 people---a wildly diverse crowd--are streaming into the ornate Oriental Theater in the heart of the Loop to watch the best show in town Thursday night: mayoral hopefuls Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Miguel del Valle and Gery Chico.

Chico is fighting a 104-degree fever.

The candidates are in the theater and are about to start one minute opening statements.

Usually it is the reporters who brag about getting "exclusives" from the Obama White House; now an in-house video produced by West Wing staffers--featuring interviews with 2010 Medal of Freedom winners is being touted as a scoop. Actually, the Obama video team turns out a lot of exclusive material--from the must-see "West Wing Week," with behind-the-scenes video and still photos on the White House flickr site. Watch the words of wisdom from the winners of the nation's highest civilian honor here.

A union leader calls Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel a "Wall Street Judas"and the Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch writes how this impacts the mayoral campaign. Chicago television on Thursday was playing up the story. Emanuel's team, while outraged about the inexcusable comments, know that the flap over the remarks could help turn out Jewish voters for Emanuel on Tuesday and help portray the brash Emanuel as a victim.

New White House press secretary Jay Carney briefed to a packed crowd on Wednesday, with reporters wanting to see how Carney did in his debut My report is here with my bottom line: No News, No Hits, No Errors. That's pretty good for the first time out.

Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman reports on a letter mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel sent to city workers--about his views on possibly cutting their pensions--a position not welcomed by the unions and city employees. Just how did Emanuel get those addresses? Read Spielman's report here. The election is Tuesday.

Chicago's mayoral primary is Tuesday and the contenders debate Thursday night at the Oriental Theatre in the Loop. Watch Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle live on ABC7 at 7 p.m. Chicago time. The debate will also stream live on

WASHINGTON---President Obama and First Lady Michelle completed their absentee ballots for the Feb. 22 mayoral and aldermanic primary, the White House confirmed on Thursday morning.

I started to ask Mrs. Obama about her vote during a Feb. 8 during a lunch she had with reporters who cover her the most.

She cut me off right away." I know, Lynn. I'm not telling you who I voted for. I haven't voted yet. I haven't voted yet. But my vote is mine, too," she said.

Interesting that she declined a chance to talk up former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the mayoral hopeful who is the front runner going into Tuesday's election.

President Obama has been vocal in helping Emanuel.

The national fascination with the mayoral candidacy of former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel continues, with the Sunday New York Times magazine running a long story about Emanuel by Chicago author, lawyer, Democrat and civic activist Scott Turow. Turow is interviewing Emanuel at Steve's Deli when Emanuel has to take a call from President Obama. New White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley--who replaced Emanuel--is quoted throughout. No news here; just a good overview by Turow of how Emanuel became a front-runner. The turning point: The residency hearings which made the brash and arrogant Emanuel a sympathetic character. The election is Tuesday.

WASHINGTON--With the arrival of Jay Carney, the new White House press secretary, one of the top deputies to former press secretary Robert Gibbs--Bill Burton-- on Wednesday announced he was leaving.

Carney briefed the press for the first time on Wednesday--taking questions for 53 minutes.

Burton, a Deputy Press Secretary, said in an e-mail to colleagues he will leave the White House Friday, to start a firm with Sean Sweeney, the top staffer to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, now running for Chicago mayor.

Burton, who was with the 2008 Obama presidential campaign from the beginning was on the short list to replace Gibbs; he is also expecting his first child.

"And while I have felt a real fulfillment in this position -- from the walls of this building to the shores of Honolulu -- painting the new baby's room this past weekend gave me clarity about a house I might want to spend a little more time in," Burton said in the note.

Sweeney was chief of staff for Emanuel. His last day will also be Friday. The two are forming a firm "focused on political and strategic consulting."

Sweeney's and Burton's connections with Emanuel goes back years. Sweeney was Emanuel's staff director when he was in House leadership and was the political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when Emanuel was the chair. Burton was Emanuel's communications chief at the DCCC at that time.

WASHINGTON--Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former White House chief of staff, revealed Tuesday that throughout his campaign, he has talked to his former boss "regularly."

I know Obama is keeping tabs on the mayoral primary--the election is next Tuesday--and Emanuel during a campaign stop in Chicago told just how much they talk.

Last year, Obama and Emanuel mapped out a nonendorsement endorsement strategy--Obama gave Emanuel an Oct. 1 send-off from the White House where he spoke warmly about his top staffer. The event--orchestrated by Emanuel--gave Emanuel professionally staged audio and video for Emanuel to use in his campaign spots--and let Obama seem somewhat above the fray.

Emanuel was queried about Obama right after the president, during a press conference, was asked if he was making calls on Emanuel's behalf. There was interest in the matter since former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dodged the question for weeks. Gibbs last briefing was Friday.

Obama on Tuesday morning never said yes or no, to the question, just riffed, "I don't have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own. And, you know, he's been very busy shoveling snow out there. And I've been very impressed with that. I never saw him shoveling around here."

Back in Chicago, Emanuel was asked about Obama's comment and said, "Well, you know, we talked last night, as we do regularly, and no, I think it's helped voters and it's helped me work...

"... I think the president, I know, appreciates this, this is for me to go earn. Fifty visits in fifty wards, making sure that the entire city knows that we're going to face our challenges together, we have tough decisions we're going to make, and they require somebody who's not afraid of being tough and is not afraid of making the tough decisions and leading people through some of those decisions. It's going to take a level of strength, resilience, and determination to see that through, and that's the character of the people of the city of Chicago.

"And I think, I agree with the president, to admit I'm fortunate to have worked with him, I'm fortune to have helped him usher in the changes I think the country needed, and I'm fortune enough to have to directly talk to the people of the city of Chicago what's important for our future here and I'm going to do that as I have done right now."

WASHINGTON--New White House press secretary Jay Carney is settling into his new West Wing office--the one vacated over the weekend by Robert Gibbs--and will host his first briefing on Wednesday, he just told me.

The briefing will be the first time Carney meets the White House press corps in his new role. As Vice President Biden's press secretary, Carney's inter-actions with reporters were usually one-on-one and off camera. Wednesday briefing will probably be well attended and much analyzed as to Carney's style and substance.

WASHINGTON--President Obama honored the 2010 Medal of Freedom winners at the White House on Tuesday.

from the White House....

* President George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States.
* Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
* Congressman John Lewis
John Lewis is an American hero and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement.
* John H. Adams
John H. Adams co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970.
* Maya Angelou
Dr. Maya Angelou is a prominent and celebrated author, poet, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker, and civil rights activist, who is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
* Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is an American investor, industrialist, and philanthropist. He is one of the most successful investors in the world.
* Jasper Johns
American artist Jasper Johns has produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s.
* Gerda Weissmann Klein
Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences.
* Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous)
Dr. Tom Little was an optometrist who was brutally murdered on August 6, 2010, by the Taliban in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan, Afghanistan, along with nine other members of a team returning from a humanitarian mission to provide vision care in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan.
* Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma is considered the world's greatest living cellist, recognized as a prodigy since the age of five whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music.
* Sylvia Mendez
Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.
* Stan Musial
Stan "The Man" Musial is a baseball legend and Hall of Fame first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. Musial played 22 seasons for the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963.
* Bill Russell
Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics' Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball.
* Jean Kennedy Smith
In 1974, Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA, a non-profit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth and adults with disabilities.
* John J. Sweeney
John J. Sweeney is the current President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, and served as President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will be speaking out more on removing barriers women face to breastfeeding, as part of her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive. My story about breastfeeding and the Obama administration is here.

plouffe, carney.JPGfrom left, David Plouffe, Dan Pfeiffer, Jay Carney at President Obama's Feb. 15, 2011 press conference. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--The two new members of the White House communications team-- White House press secretary Jay Carney and Senior Advisor David Plouffe--made their public debut on Tuesday watching from the sidelines at President Obama's press conference along with White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

Carney just took over from former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs-his last briefing was Friday--but he has yet to brief from the podium. On Monday--when the Obama FY2012 budget was released--White House budget chief Jack Lew and Economics Advisor Austan Goolsbee handled questions and on Tuesday, Obama's press conference was in lieu of a briefing.

Plouffe, who managed Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, joined the White House staff a few weeks ago, and picks up some of the portfolio handled by the recently departed now former White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod.

WASHINGTON-- President Obama was asked at his press conference on Tuesday whether he was "placing calls for your friend Rahm Emanuel for his mayoral campaign in Chicago?"

April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked the question several times in the past weeks to now former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs promised to get back to her with an answer, but he never did, so she just asked Obama himself when she had the chance.

Obama's reply seems to suggest he made no calls, but the language he uses is not conclusive. Obama never directly said yes or no.

"I don't have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own. And, you know, he's been very busy shoveling snow out there. And I've been very impressed with that. I never saw him shoveling around here."

Over at Politics Daily, executive editor Carl Cannon, a historian, scholar and journalist starts his daily story note with a look back at Feb. 15, 1933. With the Chicago mayoral election underway--the primary is Feb. 22 and early voting is ongoing--Cannon revisits the day where another Chicago mayor was big news-- Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak took some bullets intended for President-elect Franklin Roosevelt.

Cannon writes:

Good morning, it's February 15, 2011. Think our destiny is written in the stars? Think again. On this day in 1933, an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in Miami. None of the five shots hit FDR, but Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was struck. On the way to the hospital in Roosevelt's car, the wounded mayor reportedly told the president-elect, "I'm glad it was me instead of you." Such words sound apocryphal to modern sensibilities, but at the time--as our nation faced the abyss the Great Depression--most Americans were in agreement with the implication of the dying man's words. The country felt it did need Roosevelt.

Seventeen days later, FDR would deliver his stirring inaugural address in which he assured Americans that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. But two days after that, Chicagoans would lose their civic leader, an Eastern European immigrant who had wrested the city's politics away from the "lace curtain" Irish establishment, essentially creating the modern Democratic Party political machine that rules the city to this day.

As Anton Cermak lay in the hospital, the Chicago Tribune wrote, "We think he faced his problems courageously and did the best that was in him to put this punch drunk city back on its feet, to restore its reputation in the eyes of the world, to re-establish its credit, to relieve its taxpayers and to pay its debts." If he had lived, who knows if the Daley dynasty would have ever begun?

chicago mayor debate.jpg
Mayoral candidates (L-R) Miguel Del Valle, Rahm Emanuel (standing), Carol Moseley Braun and Gery Chico wind up the Mayoral candidate forum hosted by The City Club of Chicago at WTTW studios at 5400 N. St. Louis. Carol Marin (R) was the moderator. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

No matter who is elected the next Chicago mayor--the days of Ald. Ed Burke (14th) being the major powerbroker on the City Council may be over; that's the headline from Monday's debate between Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle. The Chicago Sun-Times Fran Spielman and Abdon M. Pallasch story is here. Mayor Daley left Burke alone, basically, in order to avoid any kind of confrontation with another Southwest Side pol. Burke backs Chico for mayor.

Obama's Easy FY2012 Budget Cuts

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WASHINGTON--President Obama's proposed FY2012 budget discretionary spending cuts is meeting resistance from Republicans--and some Democrats who will fight the president over the cutting of some social safety net programs. Here's my post about five easy budget cuts Obama is proposing in agencies he controls--such as spend less on travel and printing. The millions saved between 2011 and 2015 are a drop in the bucket--but Obama had to put something on the table.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama seemed a bit ambivalent about Valentine's Day when the subject came up last week during a lunch with 10 print reporters, but she did have advice when she was asked about helping a marriage survive

On Valentine's Day itself, Mrs. Obama said, " I was like I don't really care."

On the subject of marriage, Mrs. Obama said, "You know that's a good question. I think a lot of laughing. I think in our house we don't take ourselves too seriously, and laughter is the best form of unity I think in a marriage. So we still find ways to have fun together, and a lot of it is private and personal. But we keep each other smiling, and that's good."

Obama Feb. 14 week ahead

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gibbs goodbye1.JPGPresident Obama returns tie he borrowed from Robert Gibbs in 2004 at Gibbs' last briefing as White House press secretary. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

gibbs goodbye2.JPGWhite House press staff at Gibbs final briefing. From left, Amy Brundage, Bill Burton, Tommy Vietor, Reid Cherlin, Clark Stevens, Josh Earnest, Nick Shapiro. Gibbs at the podium. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--President Obama came to the White House briefing room Friday to bid farewell to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Obama returned a tie he borrowed--in 2004.

Obama explains the tie, given back in a frame:

And I know that a lot of you think that probably most attention was devoted to the speech that I delivered, the keynote speech in Boston, but in fact actually the most challenging problem was what tie to wear.

And this went up to the very last minute. I mean, 10 minutes before we were about to go on stage, we were still having an argument about ties. I had bought five, six ties. And Michelle didn't like any of them. Axelrod didn't like a couple of them -- him being, you know, one of the best-dressed men in the world -- -- so we really valued HIS opinion.

And then somebody -- I don't remember who it was -- turned and said: You know what? What about Gibbs's tie? What about Gibbs's tie? That might look good.

And frankly, Robert didn't want to give it up, because he thought he looked really good in the tie. But eventually he was willing to "take one for the Gipper," and so he took off his tie and I put it on. And that's the tie that I wore at the national convention.

He has not said about -- anything about this tie all these years, but I have to tell you that I know there's a simmering resentment that he never got it back. ....And so as a consequence, I wanted, here today...... I wanted this on the record, on camera - -- that I'm finally returning Robert's tie.

And if he chooses to break the glass, he can.

But this is going to be a reminder to me that Robert has not only been an extraordinary press secretary, but he has been a great friend.

Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman announced Friday that President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. Suleiman made the announcement to the country in a brief televised statement.

"My fellow citizens. In this difficult time that the country is going through, the president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has decided to relieve himself of his position as president and the Supreme military council has taken control of the state's affairs. May God protect us," Suleiman said.

The White House said in a statement Obama "was informed of President Mubarak's decision to step down during a meeting in the Oval Office. He then watched TV coverage of the scene in Cairo for several minutes in the outer Oval."

Obama will make a televised statement at 1:30 p.m. est.

On Thursday, Mubarak went on state television and declined to step down; less than a day later the long time Egyptian ruler was gone from Cairo.

Mubarak not stepping down

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WASHINGTON--In a late night address to the Egyptian people, Egyptian President Mubarak said he will step down, despite the uprising against him.

WASHINGTON--Scott Gration, one of President Obama's earliest foreign policy advisors--a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force major general, a native of St. Charles, Ill. who is the special envoy to Sudan--has been tapped to be the new ambassador to Kenya. Obama's father was born in Kenya and died there. Gration was with Obama when he traveled to Kenya in 2006. The Gration appointment comes after a recent Sudan vote is resulting in the southern region splitting off to be an independent state.

Below, Gration bio....

Scott Gration, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya, Department of State
Major General Scott Gration, USAF (Ret) is currently the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan. He was appointed to the position on March 18, 2009. Previously he was at the White House as Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. General Gration served in the United States Air Force from 1974 to 2006. After retiring, General Gration served as the CEO of Millennium Villages, an organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty. He then joined the Safe Water Network where he helped to provide potable water to vulnerable populations in India, Bangladesh, and Ghana. His staff positions in the Air Force included tours in the Pentagon, NATO, and a White House Fellowship. From June 2004 to October 2006, he served as Director of the Strategy, Plans, and Policy Directorate of United States European Command. In August 2003, he was appointed Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. From January to June 2003, he commanded Joint Task Force-West during Operation Iraqi Freedom. From 2000-2002, General Gration served at the Pentagon, first as the Joint Staff Deputy Director for Operations and then as Director of Regional Affairs for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. During his early years in the Air Force, General Gration served as an F-5 and F-16 instructor pilot, including a two-year assignment with the Kenyan Air Force. General Gration speaks Swahili and has an M.A. from Georgetown University in National Security Studies and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University.

WASHINGTON--As President Obama--and the world--wait to see if Egyptian President Mubarak peacefully steps down on Thursday, Obama said it is a "moment of transformation" in Egypt. Obama added remarks about Egypt at the top of his speech in Marquette, Michigan on his goal of increasing the availability of high speed wireless internet. The backdrop had Obama's new slogan, "winning the future."

Obama on Mubarak:

Before I begin, I just want to say that we are following
today's events in Egypt very closely. And we'll have more to say as
this plays out. But what is absolutely clear is that we are
witnessing history unfold. It's a moment of transformation that's
taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change.

They've turned out in extraordinary numbers, representing all ages and
all walks of life, but it's young people who've been at the forefront
-- a new generation, your generation, who want their voices to be

And so going forward, we want those young people and we want all
Egyptians to know America will continue to do everything that we can
support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt.

Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, widens his lead in the latest poll, this one taken last week by ABC-7 Chicago News, reports the Chicago Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch here.

This is the first public poll where Emanuel has broken 50 percent. If no one gets more than 50 percent in the Feb. 22 non-partisan primary, then the top two vote getters face off in an April 5 general election. Emanuel is in his best position yet to clinch on Feb. 22.

54 percent Rahm Emanuel

14 percent Gery Chico

8 percent Miguel del Valle

6 percent Carol Moseley Braun

obama announcement 2007.JPGThen Sen. Barack Obama and wife Michelle in Springfield, Ill. Feb. 10, 2007, at the official launch of his presidential campaign (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON--Four years ago today--on a freezing Feb. 10, 2007--then Sen. Barack Obama, stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. to officially kick off his campaign for president. Text of Obama's announcement speech is here.

As the Chicago mayoral primary heads into its final weeks, the rivals of front-runner Rahm Emanuel focus on him at a Wednesday debate. The Sun-Times Abdon M. Pallasch has the story here.

WASHINGTON -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday the "game plan" is to keep Mayor Daley and the CEOs of American and United Airlines talking until some kind of deal to break a deadlock over O'Hare Airport expansion is reached.

No progress was made so far between the parties after a "very, very extensive" Wednesday morning session at LaHood's Transportation Department office. Potential for a deal was still in play, however, a source told the Sun-Times.

michelle lets move.JPGFirst Lady Michelle Obama running around at "Let's Move" event on the White House South Lawn, May 25, 2010.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON-- First Lady Michelle Obama hits New York and Atlanta on Wednesday to whip up media attention on the first anniversary of her signature "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity.

Mrs. Obama, talking to NBC's Matt Lauer on the "Today Show" on Wednesday was asked questions she covered quite well with ten print reporters on Tuesday, including on President Obama quitting smoking and defending her Super Bowl high calorie menu by explaining--again--that the point is to find balance between a little junk food and a lot of healthier stuff--fruits, vegetables, water, smaller portions and less sugar and salt.

On "Today," Mrs. Obama said, in reply to a question that Obama does not dye his hair and that she did not want daughters Sasha and Malia on Facebook.

Lynn Sweet Michelle Obama interview column is here

michelle obama lunch.JPG First Lady Michelle Obama greets reporters at a lunch interview. Standing, to the left, First Lady Communications Chief Kristina Schake. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

michelle lunch lamb.jpegServed at First Lady Michelle Obama reporter lunch: Seared Rack of Lamb,Garlic Crust, New Potato Confit, Glazed Celery Hearts and Pan Jus with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON -- First lady Michelle Obama talked about food (healthy and junk), fashion, Sarah Palin and President Obama finally quitting smoking in a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday, pegged to the first anniversary today of her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity campaign.

Mrs. Obama lunched with 10 reporters -- all women, as it happens -- who cover her the most, including the Chicago Sun-Times. These sessions are rare, only the fourth time Mrs. Obama has met with her print press corps since becoming first lady.

She sat for an hour in the Old Family dining room kicking off a media blitz over a seared rack of lamb to mark the first year of "Let's Move," which is the biggest item on her policy agenda. Next month, Mrs. Obama will be launching a new initiative dealing with helping military families. She's not sure when she will jump on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign trail.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama marks the Wednesday first anniversary of her main agenda item--combating childhood obesity with her "Let's Move" campaign--with a speech in Atlanta and a media blitz.

Speaking at a print reporter lunch Tuesday about "Let's Move," Mrs. Obama said, "Tomorrow is the actual anniversary, and to kick it off I'm going on The Today Show and Regis and Kelly. Never done that before. But we're introducing a Public Service Announcement campaign as part of our efforts to get more information into the hands of parents. And we've worked with the Ad Council to generate these very clever and appealing ads, just giving parents some tips on how do you get your kids moving, how do you have conversations about healthy eating in ways that connect with communities of all kinds?

"And we've got 33,000 media outlets that are going to have these PSAs. They'll start airing over the next couple of weeks. And they have the potential to reach over 200 million viewers. So we're pretty excited about that.

"And then after I appear on those shows, I'm going to fly to Atlanta and spend time at one of the schools. But I'm there to give what I think is -- what feels like the right kind of anniversary speech, focusing on the parents, focusing on us.

"Because ultimately, Let's Move is about what I just said -- it's about parents and communities changing the demand."

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is going to vote in the Feb. 22 Chicago mayoral primary. But when I asked her Tuesday who she was going to vote for, she declined to answer.

President Obama, on the other hand, has lavished praise on front-runner Rahm Emanuel, his former White House chief of staff and allowed Emanuel's campaign use of audio and video from the lavish East Room send-off he gave him.

I asked about her vote and Mrs. Obama told me--during a lunch session with print reporters who cover her--" I know, Lynn. I'm not telling you who I voted for. I haven't voted yet. I haven't voted yet. But my vote is mine, too."

This is one of a series of posts I have been writing from the hour lunch with Mrs. Obama, booked to mark the first anniversary on Wednesday of her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity campaign.

Check out my blog at for posts on:

*Mrs. Obama on President Obama quitting smoking

*Mrs. Obama defending serving sports bar food at her Super Bowl party at the White House--and her message on moderation and balance--that small doses of junk food are okay.

*The lunch menu Mrs. Obama served her print press corps on Tuesday.

*"Let's Move" overview

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama brushed off jabs from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who in December incorrectly said her "Let's Move" anti-obesity drive calls for people to go without dessert.

Is Palin out of line?

"I don't think about her in this initiative, because it is not really about...this initiative is about balance and giving parent the kind of advice and tips that they have been asking for.

"I don't think there is anyone who really questions whether this is a real issue. And when people really understand what "Let's Move" is about...I don't get the sense in anything I do on the ground, when I am in contact with parents and school teachers and educators and pediatricians, they are grateful we are having this conversation."

Asked if she had any message for Palin or other critics, Mrs. Obama said "Let's Move."

For my post on Mrs. Obama talking about President Obama quitting smoking almost a year ago, click here.

For my post on Mrs. Obama defending serving sports bar food at her Super Bowl party at the White House--and her message on moderation and balance--that small doses of junk food are okay--click here.

For my post on the lunch menu Mrs. Obama served her print press corps on Tuesday, click here.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama marked the first anniversary of her signature "Let's Move" anti-obesity drive with a lunch interview with print reporters who cover the First Lady.

Such sessions are very rare: While Mrs. Obama gives many one-on-one tv and magazine interviews--usually centered on one topic--she has had only four sessions with her press corps: To mark her trip to Denmark to lobby for Chicago to win the 2016 Olympics; at the White House to mark the first year in the White House and last April, in Mexico City.

During the interview Mrs. Obama took questions on "Let's Move" and other topics.

For my post on Mrs. Obama talking about President Obama quitting smoking almost a year ago, click here.

For my post on Mrs. Obama defending serving sports bar food at her Super Bowl party at the White House--and her message on moderation and balance--that small doses of junk food are okay--click here.

Mrs. Obama's lunch with her ten-member all female print press corps was served on Truman china. Joining Mrs. Obama at the table were a White House chef Sam Kass, Senior Policy Adviser For Healthy Food Initiatives; First Lady chief of staff Tina Tchen; White House domestic policy director Melody Barnes and "Let's Move" director Robin Schepper.

Here is the menu:

Winter "White House Garden" greens
Last summer harvest pickle peppers
Grilled Sweet Onion
Feta Cheese with Herb Vinaigrette

Fresh Pan-roasted Rockfish
Artichoke Barigoule, Pearl Onions
Herb Oil


Seared Rack of Lamb
Garlic Crust
New Potato Confit, Glazed Celery Hearts and Pan Jus
Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
Key Lime tart

Wine: Hestan Chardonnay "San Francisco Bay" 2007

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing healthy eating the day before the first anniversary of her "Let's Move" anti-obesity campaign, defended the White House Super Bowl menu which included bratwurst, kielbasa, cheeseburgers
 and deep dish pizza.

The point is balance, not deprivation, Mrs. Obama said at Tuesday lunch with reporters who cover her East Wing. "I like to talk about my obsession with French fries because I don't want people to think that "Let's Move" is about complete, utter deprivation. It is about moderation and real life changes and ideas that really work for families, today's families too."

During the year of her "Let's Move" healthy eating and exercise drive, Mrs. Obama has never said people should quit junk food--just don't eat it all the time.
"I think I've always been very consistent on that front because that's how I live my life. "I mean, It's about balance. It's always about balance. I felt As a mother if somebody came and said 'you can never have a hot dog' or serve your child a slice of pizza, we'd never get a handle on this issue cause I think that's sometimes how people feel, that's it's all or nothing.

It is not necessary or "realistic" to eat healthy food every day and Super Bowl Sunday is a day made for an exception, Mrs. Obama said.

"I don't even know what you'd have other than some hot dogs and some burgers for a Super Bowl party. That's what Super Bowl is, so the message has always been about balance."

As for that balance, "As I tell my kids, if you eat at every meal than when you're out with your friends on a weekend and you have pizza and ice cream for the entire weekend, you'll still be ok. The problem is when that fun stuff becomes the habit and I think that's what's happened in our culture. Fast food has become the everyday meal and what pediatricians will tell you, that's causing some huge health issues."

WASHINGTON--President Obama has not smoked for "almost a year," First Lady Michelle Obama said on Tuesday.

Obama had been trying to stop smoking since the end of 2007, when Mrs. Obama made his quitting a condition of getting her support for him to run for president.

Mrs. Obama reflected on the president's successful struggle to quit smoking during a lunch with the print beat reporters from the Sun-Times and other outlets covering her, organized to mark the first anniversary on Wednesday of her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity campaign.

Asked to clarify reports about Obama's smoking and whether he kicked the habit, Mrs. Obama said, "Yes he has, yes he has. Very proud," she added. "Totally."

"It's been almost a year," Mrs. Obama said. "...But I don't know exactly when because he never smoked a lot to begin with, so I never saw him smoke." If one wanted to know more about his smoking habit, "You have to talk to him."

She said she does not ask him a lot about how he stopped smoking. She is happy for her kids he did.

"It's not like, 'have you smoked today, have you smoked today." But I know that it has been awhile. And I am very proud of him."

Asked how the president finally stopped smoking, Mrs. Obama said, 'he's always wanted to stop, I think our kids are getting to the age where he wants to be able to look them in the face, because they want to know, 'you don't smoke, do you dad?' He wants to be able to say nope. It's always really for the kids, I haven't really poked and prodded him on this because when somebody is doing the right thing, you don't mess with him."

Obama discussed his smoking--and his use of Nicorette--in 2008.

"I've been chewing on this Nicorette, which tastes like you're chewing on ground pepper - but it does help," then Senator Obama said in an interview that aired in February, 2008 on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

The Chicago mayor candidates submitted questionnaires to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, covering policy and biography in their answers. Read them here.

The link leads to questionnaires from:

Rahm Emanuel
Miguel Del Valle
Carol Moseley Braun
Gery J. Chico
Patricia Van Pelt Watkins
William Walls, III

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, made a bundle in just a few years as a "relationship" deal maker after he left the Clinton White House. And what is that, exactly? Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch looks into the making of Emanuel's fortune here.

Here is the link to my post about stories I have done about Emanuel's various cushy appointments to boards that paid well and required little work.

The Sun-Times Watchdog column on Monday outlined the finances of the main Chicago mayoral contenders. Frontrunner Rahm Emanuel made a bundle leveraging his government connections when he went from the Clinton White House to the private sector, the basis of the fortune the Watchdogs reported on in their Monday column.

When Emanuel first ran for the House in 2002, he was casting himself as a populist and he worried that voters might be turned off by his mega million salary, so he tested whether there was a backlash in a focus group.

Emanuel made $6,491,000 in 2001 as a managing director of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. One of Emanuel's clients was Loral Inc., whose CEO, Bernard Schwartz, has been one of the Democratic Party's biggest donors. Another Emanuel client was Slim-Fast, whose founder S. Daniel Abraham, has been another giant Democratic donor.

Emanuel's official biographies have always been selective about his job history: most bios even skip that he was a member of the Chicago Housing Authority Board, a curious omission for someone running for Chicago mayor. Emanuel rarely brings up--his rivals do --his boondoggle service on the quasi-governmental Freddie Mac board, which paid him $231,655 in director's fees in 2001 and $31,060 in 2000. Former President Clinton appointed Emanuel to Freddie Mac.

Also never noted: Young and Rubicam, the ad agency, named Emanuel to its advisory board and paid him $128,500 and $124,750 over two years in the early 2000's. Emanuel in 1999 joined the board of, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Below, columns I wrote about Emanuel's finances in 2002 and 2003:

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is planning a multi-city, multi-medium media blitz on Tuesday and Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of her "Let's Move" campaign to reduce childhood obesity.

My Sun-Times column on Mrs. Obama's kick off of her war on obesity on Feb. 9, 2010--her first public policy initiative--is here.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama marks her fourth session with the print beat reporters who cover her, pegged to the "Let's Move" program; on Wednesday she gives interviews to NBC's "The Today Show" and "Live with Regis and Kelly" and a group of online reporters.

Mrs. Obama on Tuesday will also make a series of calls designed to generate Let's Move coverage:

2:30 PM: Let's Move! Medical Community Call with Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin
2:45 PM: Let's Move! Healthy Schools Call with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
3:15 PM: Let's Move! to Improve Physical Activity for Kids Call with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Drew Brees, President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition
3:30 PM: Let's Move! Cities and Towns Call with Mayors from San Antonio and Flint, Michigan

WASHINGTON--President Obama reached out to the U.S. business community in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, saying his administration wants to cut red tape and streamline government regulations for companies, but corporate America has obligations to start hiring again. Obama walked to the speech--a block from the White House with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the Chicagoans who are Obama's ambassadors to corporate America. Read my story about Obama's Chamber speech here.

Read the transcript of Obama's Chamber "we're all in this together" speech here.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and First Lady Michelle served sports bar food at their Super Bowl Party on Sunday, entertaining about 150 guests at the White House, including pals from Chicago, Congress, the Cabinet plus Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.

Mrs. Obama plans a string of events this week to mark the first anniversary of her "Let's Move" anti obesity campaign. But the White House Super Bowl menu does not conflict with her healthy eating drive because she has always allowed for lapses when it comes to food-we-love-but-is-bad-for-us, with instructions that junky eats be consumed rarely and in moderation.

The menu, released by the White House:



*Deep Dish Pizza

*Buffalo Wings

*German Potato Salad
*Twice Baked Potatoes
*Snyders Potato Chips and Pretzels

*Chips and Dips


*Ice Cream
*Beers paid tribute to the states of the Super Bowl teams: Wisconsin's Hinterland Pale Ale & Amber Ale, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania's Yuengling Lager and Light.
*White House Honey Ale.

Lopez and her husband, Anthony, were invited because they are among the co-owners of the Miami Dolphins. Chicago buddies Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker played basketball with Obama earlier on Super Bowl Sunday.

Other invitees included the Pennsylvania senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey; Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) whose district includes Green Bay; Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Madison (Wi.) Mayor Dave Cieslewicz; Buffalo, N.Y. Mayor Byron Brown; Texas Democratic Reps. Rafael Anchia and Trey Martinez; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Attorney General Eric Holder; U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

WASHINGTON--President Obama tapped Willow Creek Community Church's Lynne Hybels for a spot on the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Hybels, of Barrington, is married to Willow Creek senior pastor and founder Bill Hybels.

Below, Lynne Bybels bio from the White House....

Lynne Hybels, Appointee for Member, President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Lynne Hybels is co-founder and Advocate for Global Engagement at the Willow Creek Community Church, a religious organization committed to maximizing individual life-transformation as well as encouraging effective leadership of local churches. For two decades, Mrs. Hybels has been involved in Willow Creek's ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. She has written inspirational books and articles focusing on global poverty, HIV/AIDS, and Israeli-Palestinian peace. Under her leadership, Willow Creek is establishing an Advisory Board on Middle East Engagement. Mrs. Hybels is currently a board member of the Africa Advisory Board at Willow Creek Community Church and recently served on the U.S. Board for World Vision. She holds a B.A. in Social Sciences from Bethel College.

WASHINGTON--The 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth is Feb. 6 and senators saluted the only president born in Illinois from the Senate floor, including Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.

Durbin's Reagan speech is here.

Click below for Kirk's remarks.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is drafting legislation to insure if Midway Airport is sold to private interests--the federal government be repaid $372 million in federal money poured into the Chicago airport before City Hall gets any of that money.

Mayor Daley's plan to privatize Midway fell apart in 2009 when a $2.5 billion deal melted down with the rest of the economy. Mayoral front-runner Rahm Emanuel is against selling city assets to pay for one-time operating revenues. Though Daley is not pursuing another Midway deal, the FAA has given the city until July 31 to submit a privatization plan. A new mayor takes office in May.

There should be "a lien on any future privatization" Durbin said on Thursday, discussing the Chicago airports at an Illinois constituent breakfast.

"if we are to continue federal investments, we ought to say to the local units of government, 'cut us in on the deal,' so that we can get some of the benefit," Durbin said.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is among a string of senators today saluting former President Ronald Reagan from the Senate floor. Reagan was born on Feb. 6, 1911 in Tampico, Ill., was raised in Dixon, Illinois and graduated from Eureka College in Eureka, Ill.

And....though Abe Lincoln and Barack Obama were Illinoisans when they were elected president Reagan is the only Illinois-born president.

Click below for text of Durbin's remarks as prepared...


WASHINGTON--As the nation marks the birth of former President Ronald Reagan 100 years ago, it's worth noting all the places named after the Illinois born president. Annie Groer over at Politics Daily has a complete national list of Reagan namesakes from coast to coast.

Below, courtesy Groer, a string Illinois sites, roads and schools named after Reagan:

WASHINGTON--Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk on Thursday are both saluting from the Senate floor the 100th anniversary of the Illinois birth of President Ronald Reagan.

WASHINGTON--White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer informed all via tweet just now: "FYI: WH unclassified email went down shortly before 8 AM. Verizon is working to solve the problem.Pool reports will be avail in press office."

WASHINGTON--The Senate Democrats have the votes to rebuff a GOP bid, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to repeal all of President Obama's signature health care law. I'm told there are no Democratic defections expected when the vote takes place later Wednesday.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that a IRS 1099 reporting requirement in the law should be repealed; both sides and President Obama agreed the paperwork burden was a mistake.

WASHINGTON--Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, postponed his Wednesday Chicago visit because of the snow.

Messina is on his first swing this week as campaign manager, meeting with mega donors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston.

My story on who Messina was going to meet with in Chicago is here.

WASHINGTON--President Obama and his 2008 rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) met at the White House on Wednesday, perhaps a new beginning for the two men. The thaw started in the wake of the Tucson shooting spree, where McCain warmly received Obama's comments about the massacre. Also, McCain, a long-time crusader against earmarks welcomes Obama's anti-earmark pledge.

According to a White House official, giving a "readout" of the meeting, "this afternoon, the President and Senator McCain met privately in the Oval Office. The President called Senator McCain last month after the Senator penned on op-ed in the Washington Post after the tragedy in Tucson and the meeting arose from that discussion. Senator McCain had indicated that he wanted to discuss a number of important issues with the President, and the President was eager to see him.

WASHINGTON--The Illinois senators, Dick Durbin and freshman Mark Kirk hold their first joint Illinois breakfast on Thursday. Kirk agreed to continue the long tradition, started by former Senators Alan J. Dixon and the late Paul Simon, of meeting with any Illinoisans in town on Thursday's when the Senate is in session.

Anyone can ask anything about legislation, a special issue or help from a federal agency at these sessions. After Dixon and Simon, the tradition was carried on by every successive Illinois senator, no matter Republican or Democrat: Carol Moseley Braun, Durbin, Peter Fitzgerald and Barack Obama.

And's usually coffee and donuts, not a real breakfast.

WASHINGTON--In a lighter moment during a very serious briefing about Egypt, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked Wednesday who is checking on President Obama's Chicago house, what with the monster snowstorm hitting the city.

Asked about Obama and the Chicago blizzard--forcing the closing of Chicago public schools for the first time in 12 years, Gibbs said, "We did remark that -- my son gets excited any time it turns cold, because he knows there's a decent chance that he won't have school. (Laughter.) But we did remark that I guess this is the first time in 12 years that kids have shared that same feeling across the city schools in Chicago, so --
"That's a very good -- I don't know the answer, though."

Gibbs joked, "Chuck (NBC's Chuck Todd) thought Rahm was."

I tossed it back to Gibbs, "Rahm's going to handle the snow?"

Said Gibbs punting to Rahm's press secretary, Ben LaBolt, who was a White House spokesman before Emanuel hired him for his Chicago mayoral campaign: "Ben LaBolt, if you're listening...."

WASHINGTON---Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, mulling a 2012 White House run, hits Chicago on Saturday for a fundraiser to benefit the Illinois Republican Party, celebrating Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday.

Others in the speaking line-up: Former Senator Rick Santorum, former Ambassador John Bolton and Rep. Mike Pence, who recently took himself out of the running for the 2012 GOP nomination.

WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will vote in the Feb. 22 mayoral primary via an absentee ballot, the East Wing told me on Tuesday. The West Wing earlier confirmed President Obama is also voting absentee.

WASHINGTON--Chicago mayoral candidate and former White House House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel unveiled a food policy on Tuesday that mirrors First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to bring more healthy and affordable food choices to urban "food deserts."

Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign--a year old next week--identified problems that still need solving, even in her own Chicago back yard. Mrs. Obama has been advocating public/private partnerships in her speeches to the nation's mayors and governors through the past year. Last month, Mrs. Obama lent her stature to Walmart when she appeared a the retailing giants roll out of a host of plans to repackage, reformulate and reprice food in order to reduce salt and sugar, trim portion sizes, and cut prices on fresh fruits and vegetables.

I talked with Emanuel policy director David Spielfogel--asking about borrowing a page from the White House playbook-- and he said the he consulted heavily with local groups in creating the plan.

What Emanuel has in his proposals (the whole plan at the click) is how a city can work with local non-profits and rewrite ordinances if necessary to make it easier to bring fresh healthy choices to underserved communities.

WASHINGTON--Charlotte, N.C. will be the host city for the 2012 Democratic presidential nominating convention, the Democratic National Committee announced in an e-mail from First Lady Michelle Obama sent out Tuesday morning.

Republicans chose Tampa, Fl. for their 2012 convention last May.

Click below for e-mails on picking Charlotte from Mrs. Obama, DNC chairman Tim Kaine....

WASHINGTON--Freshman Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has been assigned to the following committees: Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Aging and Appropriations

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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