CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago mayoral hopeful Carol Moseley Braun went on the attack on two major rivals for their financial histories and political connections, after days of facing questions about her own finances.
Braun went after former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago school board president Gery Chico in an effort to get her campaign back on track.
For several days, Braun has been facing questions about her income tax returns, which have raised questions about her troubled finances and late payment of property taxes.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, Braun tried to answer some of those questions by painting herself as a hard-working middle-class woman facing the same tough times as most Chicagoans.
“As a working woman, a single working woman, I put everything, I put my house on the line, I put my time on the line. I did everything I could to start a business, in the neighborhood, that people could work at,” Braun said. “And I’m happy to report it’s still there and it’s still standing.”
Braun’s tax returns have showed that she has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years, while running her small business, Ambassador Organics.
She said her efforts to keep her business afloat resulted in her making late payments on property taxes, but she said she’s not the only candidate who’s been late paying taxes.
“Okay, you’ve got a candidate who’s a multi-millionaire who paid his taxes late,” Braun said, in an apparent reference to Emanuel. “You know, I just kept … I did what I could to make it in a tough time for all Americans.”
Braun had spent the last few days periodically releasing small portions of four years’ of tax returns and written statements – which showed hundreds of dollars of losses and no taxes paid – but refusing to answer any questions.
Asked if her personal financial troubles reflects on her ability to run a city with a multi-billion dollar budget, Braun denied that her own finances were “in disarray.”
“They’re not in disarray. I’m just a working class person,” Braun said, before taking a shot at Chico.
“You’ve got another candidate who bankrupted one of the oldest firms in Chicago. You know, a firm Abraham Lincoln’s son had been a part of was sent belly-up by one of the guys running for mayor,” Braun said, referring to Chico’s time as managing partner at Altheimer & Gray.
Chico, picking up the important endorsement of Wilfredo De Jesus, who dropped out of the race Friday, called the charge of “bankrupting (the venerable) law firm” he helped run “100% false and irresponsible.”
Braun also took a shot at Emanuel.
“You got another person who’s a multimillionaire who made a bunch of money influence peddling in a few days,” Braun said.
Emanuel’s campaign was quick to respond to the charge of “influence peddling.”
A spokesman said Emanuel “turned down a job as a lobbyist … didn’t write a kiss and tell book. He worked in the private sector, was successful and was compensated based on his performance.”
But Braun went further when pressed on how her own business experience prepares her for leading the city of Chicago.
“I think (it) better prepares me because I know what working class people are going through,” Braun said. “With all my credentials I could have gone into influence-peddling, I just chose not to. I’m selling coffee and tea.
With only the first two pages of each year’s tax returns, it’s hard to get an accurate picture of Braun’s finances. But assuming there’s nothing more there, it’ll be up to voters now to decide whether her experiences make her better able to help the city manage during tough economic times than she could do for her own business.