Abu-Taleb spent $23,000 on Oak Park presidential campaign

Village president's victory came with 3-to-1 one spending margin


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

If dollars were votes, the race between newly elected Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and his opponent, John Hedges, wouldn't have been much of a contest.

Abu-Taleb snagged 58 percent of the vote, but he also raised and spent more than three times the amount Hedges' Oak Park Together committee expended. Abu-Taleb's campaign costs also included a hefty amount from his own wallet.

According to statements available on the Illinois Board of Election's website, Abu-Taleb raised more than $72,000, including sizable donations from outside the state. That number also included $23,000 Abu-Taleb donated to his campaign.

The Oak Park Together slate raised $21,229, which included a $3,500 loan from the Village Manager Association that was later repaid.

Abu-Taleb's largest single donation was $12,000, which he made to the campaign on April 4, just five days before Election Day. His campaign also received $8,000 in contributions between April 6 and 8, as Abu-Taleb made his final push for voters.

The Illinois Board of Elections report doesn't include expenses reported after March 31.

The $72,000 raised by Abu-Taleb is above the average spent on Oak Park campaigns but it nearly matches the amount raised in two previous campaigns over the past decade – once by the VMA and once by an independent slate challenging the VMA.

While the bills of the Oak Park Together committee reflected more traditional expenses, Abu-Taleb spent a substantial amount on political tactics unique to his campaign.

For example, the VMA-backed Oak Park Together spent $848 for its website, $3,200 for printing and brochure costs and a little more than $2,000 for yard signs. The remainder of reported expenses was for newspaper ads and lease payments for the committee's campaign headquarters.

Abu-Taleb's expense report, however, includes $4,500 for a political consultant, $1,500 for graphic design work, roughly $2,400 for yard signs, and around $600 for promotional items. Abu-Taleb's expenses also included odds and ends like $188 for Dunkin Donuts and $542 for Facebook ads.

Other large expenses included close to $4,000 in newspaper ads; the Oak Park Together committee spent a little more than half that amount. Abu-Taleb's campaign also forked out $7,175 for a fundraiser at his restaurant, Maya Del Sol, and $11,156 for direct mailing pieces.

Abu-Taleb's itemized individual contributions between Jan. 1 and March 31 totaled $27,785 from 79 contributions. The largest contributors besides Abu-Taleb himself were members of the Gearen family who are related to Abu-Taleb through his wife. A total of $3,000 was given by Thomas Gearen and Paul Gearen from Park Ridge.

His campaign also generated roughly $6,000 from out of state, including two $2,000 donations from contributors in Minnesota and Michigan.

Abu-Taleb's campaign also received a donation $250 from both outgoing River Forest Village President John Rigas and Jerry Delany, chairwoman for the Democratic Party of Oak Park. From the names listed on the reports, it also appears as though a few thousand dollars were also contributed from family members of Abu-Taleb.

His campaign funds, however, didn't stop coming in by the April 9 Election Day, as $3,000 more were recorded as being received post-election. Mary Jo Schuler, co-owner of Marion Street Cheese Market, gave $1,000 on April 15 and Matthew Connelly, an attorney from Riverside, gave $2,000 on May 9.

Oak Park Together's itemized list totaled $10,284 from 29 contributions, with two donations reaching $1,000. While Abu-Taleb had many contributions from outside Oak Park, the Oak Park Together committee received mainly local funds, including $1,000 from Willis and Shirley Johnson, owners of the Lake Theatre.

Current village board trustees who were listed as contributors to Oak Park Together included Glenn Brewer ($160), Ray Johnson ($250) and Collette Lueck ($365). Hedges, who earned 42 percent of the vote, gave $600 to the campaign.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 21st, 2013 12:17 PM

Followed your suggestions and googled Hoffa's quote. Should I be surprised that you either deliberately misquoted him or just neglected to heed your own advice? Let me try to provide you with the facts. At a 2011 Labor Day rally, Hoffa said, "Everybody here has vote. If we go go back and we keep our eye on the prize. Let's take these sons of bitches out and give back America to Amercia where we belong". Hoffa also stated, "we've got a bunch of people there that don't want the President to succed and they're called the Tea Party". I do not present Mr. Hoffa as a gifted speaker and you may find his rhetoric to be inflammatory. But in terms of fairness, you should have at least attempted to verify his words and not posted inaccuracies and offered such a factual. I'll offer a quote from that Tea Party icon Sarah Palin that should be considered offensive and reckless, "Don't retreat, reload."


Posted: May 18th, 2013 2:49 AM

@coughlin- As bad as you try to paint WI., they are still FAR better off than us. CURRENT DATA .......WI unemployment 7.1%,ranks 29th, ..........................................llinois UE- 9.3% ranks 50th. http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.html ALSO just 1 of 100's of examples pulled up on something called GOOGLE- u should try it --September 2011: Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa screams: "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of bitches out

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 8:34 PM

Mr' B - kerfuffle, harmless little comments, poopsie etc. You ,. Sure are not a normal poster.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 8:29 PM

I agree Cd

Mr. Borderman from Oak Park   

Posted: May 13th, 2013 7:12 PM

What a kerfuffle my harmless little comments have stirred! Someone actually went so far as to look for me in the phone book. Apparently, you've never heard of unlisted numbers, poopsie. As for the "public union thug" swipe: really, Tinkerbell, NOBODY could compete with the thuggery of Wall Street and the corporations, who have co-opted and corrupted our government in the name of "business."


Posted: May 13th, 2013 4:43 PM

JBM, the only thing that I requested of Anan was/is that as the new Village President he consider endorsing the removal of the amortization schedule from the commercial sign ordinance, which imposes a burden on Oak Park businesses requiring compliance by next year. This will take an application for the code amendment by a business or perhaps the Chamber, with hearings by the Plan Commission. I do not own a business, but see this as an example of what is driving them out of town.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 11:33 PM

Hi Eric - I was really pleased to see the $ figures in the WJ. In the past, the figures were not released until well after the elections and no one was very interested in them. Timely reporting of political election finances is a good thing for everyone. Keeps everyone on their toes!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 11:29 PM

Way to go Cdonovan. The ground game was very important!

Eric Brightfield from oak park illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 10:44 PM

Dear Mr "Borderman" thanks to that old Internet, there are no Borderman's residing in Oak Park Illinois, and thankfully , these posts have demanded full disclosure. here I am, Eric Brightfield , 518 North Grove 708 383-7412 and I say you ate sour grapes ?, " Fishmonger?. Anan ACTUALLY started and ran a successful business, a huge accomplishment. The past Oak Park boards and politicians have been university wonks that have NEVER been held accountable by that ol bitch of the real world!

Eric Brightfield from oak park   

Posted: May 12th, 2013 10:26 PM

in my 24 years in Oak Park. do not recall an article or headline making an issue of how much the VMA spent on an election. so I find it intersecting that the WJ that endorsed the VMA would try to make hay of what the overwhelming victorious candidate spent on the election. Of course it takes big money to overcome a machine such as the VMA but I know that Anan's money came from little people like myself that are fed up with the status quo of Oak Park Politics


Posted: May 12th, 2013 9:25 PM

JBM, don't I know it. I did the door-to-door canvassing between Austin/Oak Park and Madison/Harrison. That's how impressed I was with his candidacy.

Downtown OP resident  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 3:35 PM

My previous comment was not meant as a sideswipe against Anan. He ran a campaign that interested people and I wish him well.

Downtown OP resident  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 3:33 PM

I had assumed that a certain percentage of "for Anan" votes were basically anti-incumbent or anti-status quo votes. People seem pretty unhappy with the current status of village governance, IMO.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 10:00 AM

Cdonovan - Anan and his team used a lot more sweat and energy than they did money!


Posted: May 12th, 2013 9:16 AM

So, does this imply that Anan bought the election? He got my vote after meeting him and discussing his issues with the way things have gone in Oak Park. They coincide with mine. My regret was that he didn't have a slate of candidates with him for the open trustee positions.

Mike Lennox from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 7:57 AM

In the past, you got what you paid for......this time it was money well spent for those of us who wanted change and a great leader !!!!!

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 7:53 AM

Ah, Jim, I remember you telling me not to refer to anyone directly in posts. Again, with your double-standards. I will now leave you to your thoughts.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 12th, 2013 1:13 AM

I really cannot figure out the point of your post, Steve. It's unclear if you intended to just take a swipe at me personally or were sincerely attempting to offer some sort of message in support of Scott Walker. My comment was actually directed at and in response to Timothy. But if you have taken it upon yourself to present a position that contradicts the information I offered; please understand the need to stay focused on details. Sorry to read that "hope and dreams" upset your stomach. I get queasy on air flights.

Steve Harvey from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 11:26 PM

The simple fact is that in Coughlin's world, Gov. Walker would save him thousands. He'd rather you spend your money on his friends. Hope and dreams; puke

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 5:03 PM

Public union thugs, Timothy? What and who are you talking about? And please verify your own private poll numbers before lauding Scott Walker and his record in Wisconsin. The state currently ranks 44th in the nation in terms of job creation, 45th in workers' wages and last regarding short-term job growth. His polling numbers are falling and he's viewed negatively by a majority of men, women and independents. The polling is conducted among Wisconsin residents and no "Oak Parkers" were included. I don't argue with you that our home state has huge economic issues to address and political corruption is rampant; as it is in Badgerland. You may be "less mature" but be well-informed.

Timothy Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 3:46 PM

Most mature posters here have ignored the mind-numbed robotic rantings of Mr Borderman. Since I'm less mature, I'll call him out for his mean-spirited, intolerant diatribes against Mr. Abu-Taleb. You lost...deal with it, & while you're at it, deal with the fact that Gov Walker not only has succeeded in getting his state to a place us in Madigan-land can only dream of, but also is liked & approved by a wide margin (except by public union thugs & many Oak Parkers) of folks there. Have a nice day!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 12:55 PM

Elections - I agree that the Anan Campaign spent more than was needed to win. The problem in a campaign, particularly, when making a first attempt at office, does not know how much money is needed to win. If a candidate becomes popular, donations pour in and the natural response is to spend it. Local campaigns are not like those we see on TV where polling gives direction to the results and guides to spending. Local elections are largely run without grand strategies and planned tactics to guide political and financial to guide the candidate to a path of victory. The fact is everyone is winging it and making risky campaigning decision without a map. A lot of mistakes occur. Fortunately, the mistakes can be fixed -- the next time around.

Mr. Borderman from Oak Park   

Posted: May 11th, 2013 11:51 AM

Just adoring the comments of the pod people who are ready to embrace the Age of the Fishmonger.


Posted: May 11th, 2013 11:33 AM

The VMA,if you recall, only had 1 contested race. Naturally it would spend A LOT less than in previous much contested elections. DUH. P.S.Anon's $$ isnt what won him his seat- IMHO [People] win elections and Anon had a lot of people helping and assisting in spreading his message. He clearly had support from previous VMA voters, which were not swayed because of the campaign money spent.... Personally I think he overspent.

Galen Gockel from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 10:14 AM

Tsk. Tsk. So OP has lost its good government virginity? Lauber is right....a generation ago, I and others feared Sen. Prez Phil Rock's move into OP, claiming he was the vanguard of the "machine's" takeover of our innocent little town. We were wrong. No one was more loyal to the Cook Co Democratic party than Rock, but OP benefited greatly from his influence in Sprngfld. If Anan has access to the levers of power, we should rejoice! (Like Murtaugh I was struck by how few $$ the VMA could raise)

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 11:33 PM

Thanks, Bridgett. Miss the link completely. Interesting stuff!

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:53 PM

@JBM, The links to the reports are under the photo. And I just found another story about this by Bill Dwyer at the Oak Leaves that he wrote two days ago, (and updated today, 37 minutes after this story was timestamped).

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:36 PM

Anna or Bridgett - Can you let me know the URL to get the county data? Thanks.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:34 PM

Thank you to Cook County Elections Department for the timely and clear reporting of election funding. It was not always that way. Thanks to the WJ as well. Anna Lothson did a great job on reporting the data, though there are some clarifications needed. The amount raised and spent is not unheard of. The VMA spent more, a lot more in the 2007 election. The cost of Anan's campaign was higher than a normal election because he entered the race late in the game and had very little name recognition, a critical factor in an election. This is particularly true when there were so many names in play ?" the VMA had five. A lot of Anan's money was spent early in the campaign for name recognition before the VMA started spending. The more interesting number was why the VMA spent so little. In normal elections, the VMA usually spend two or three times than they did this year. Did the VMA decide it did not have to spend as much this time? It is more likely that their donation income was low this year. That is; Anan probably received a considerable amount of local business and resident campaign donations that usually go to the VMA. As far as fear that monies from outside Oak Park might be some type of takeover, the $3,000 from Oak Ridge was from a relative ?"I saw that in a previous financial report, and the donations from Michigan and Minnesota were probably also family or friend donations. Such donations are not considered unusual or a purchase of influence.


Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:12 PM

Considering how entrenched the VMA is and how big a head start it gives a candidate, it is not surprising that it would take some cash to break through.

Mr. Borderman from Oak Park   

Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:12 PM

Poor "Maggie"! Trapped in a ruin of a village! Dear persecuted lady: escape! Escape this den of liberal squalor, this ghastly hell-hole, and flee perhaps to the Eden called River Forest. I;m sure the RF political machine, which undermined our most recent election, would welcome you with open claws.

Maggie from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:02 PM

Thank you Dan Lauber. You are a thinking man. It is about time we had a change from the VMA. They had their chance and all they did was ruin this Village. I could go on and on but we will soon find out what can be done to get things going in Oak Park.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 10:00 PM

Hi Anna, oh I see now where you got your figures. Never mind. :-)

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 9:23 PM

And I ditto Doug Wyman's sentiment. These figures, for both campaigns, are incomplete since they are only through March 31st. Once both file their D-2 Final Reports, then the picture will be complete.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 8:52 PM

Hi Anna, I'm looking at the quarterly reports, and I'm not understanding where you got the $23K figure for Anan. I see $11k in loans ($3k, $5k, and $3k from Maya). I'm wondering where the other $12k is. Maybe you counted the $6k 3x, since it appears on three separate reports? And I also don't see the $72k you say Anan's campaign raised. The quarterly report shows $43,973. Where is the other $28K? I'm new to these reports so I may be reading them incorrectly. Thanks.

doug wyman from oak park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 7:19 PM

It will be good when you have the complete report from both campaigns to publish that. Please do . Doug wyman

Mr. Borderman from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 6:40 PM

A "little Scott Walker"? Yeah, we really need a bracing dose of Rhinelander fascism to utterly destroy what's left of democracy in Illinois. The stink of the AAT win wafts over the sister villages.

Needle Nose Ned Ryerson from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 6:06 PM

Thanks Tim Ryan; good stuff. A little Scott Walker here in Illinois would be a blessing. After planting all those union signs and driving to Wisconsin, the OP democrats seemed so erudite. And, yet they cannot solve our pension problems because they would upset their financial supporters. However, we did the the liquor laws changed pretty quickly.

Mr. Borderman from Oak Park   

Posted: May 10th, 2013 6:04 PM

So, the Karl Rove School of Politics is up and running in Oak Park, and our very first bully boy President is seated. Yes, indeed, if you can sell fish, you can run a government.

Chris from OP  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 5:35 PM

@Uno: So the voters are so dumb they didn't realize the vast RF conspiracy to take over our VMA paradise? Right....

Timothy Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 5:34 PM

Outside influences a problem?? Wow...the same OPer's frothing over "outside money" supporting Anan are likely the same folks who drove to Wisconsin to rail against Gov Walker, or to Iowa to influence the election in favor of President Obama. You can't have it both ways. As often as not, the candidate with the most $$ loses. Public financing of campaigns would concentrate more power with govt. Bad idea. Citizens should give what they want to whom they want, with full, immediate disclosure.


Posted: May 10th, 2013 5:29 PM

Chris, that's the whole point, isn't it, that the majority of voters were kept in the dark about Anan's financial backers. I know plenty of people who voted for Anan who wish they could take back their vote after they saw him manipulate the process to deal with his liquor license conflict. I'm sure there will be even more regret from voters now.


Posted: May 10th, 2013 5:25 PM

Yes, Dan, the River Forest machine, which backed Abu-Taleb, with money (see the article) and personal support (bonus points to anyone who spotted new RF Pres Adducci being the first to shake Anan's hand after the favorable liquor commission vote on Monday).

Dan Lauber  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 4:53 PM

Machine politics come to Oak Park? Surely you jest. The only politcal machine in Oak Park has been the VMA -- for decades. Abu-Taleb certainly did not establish a political machine -- kind of hard to do with one candidate in a single election. On the flip side, in River Forest the "political machine" grossly outspent the 3 independent candidates who won. And let's not forget that machine stalwart Phil Rock was Oak Park's senator forever.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 4:51 PM

@Uno: The one that got nearly 60% of the vote represented residents. Its called democracy.


Posted: May 10th, 2013 4:43 PM

Thanks. We now know which campaign represented Oak Park residents and which campaign represented moneyed interests outside of Oak Park and even outside of Illinois. However, this info would have been more helpful prior to the election.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 4:40 PM

I support public financing of election campaigns but wonder how it would work at the local level? It is disturbing to learn that both village president candidates and the Oak Park Together slate accepted contributions from outside interests and individuals.


Posted: May 10th, 2013 4:27 PM

Machine politics comes to Oak Park. Haven't seen this here in a long while. I hope this isn't the start of a trend.

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