| by Michael Graham, Nathaniel Hamilton and Orlando Ortiz

In 2015, hotels and hotel lobby groups donated more than $85,000 to 22 Chicago aldermen. A year later, the city passed confusing and complex regulations on Airbnb and similar home-sharing services that allow people to rent out their private homes and apartments to individuals.

Faced with a lawsuit challenging the city’s restrictions on Airbnb, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now attempting to ease some of the restrictions on Airbnb and similar home-sharing services. But some aldermen—including many who’ve received thousands from hotel lobbying groups—have fought to keep regulations strict for the popular service.

Political donations are often a tool used by established businesses and industries to push regulations that restrict new competitor businesses. While new businesses and industries also donate money and lobby city aldermen, as evidenced by city regulations on ride-sharing and food trucks and carts, established businesses and industries often have the upper hand in influencing city politicians.

In 2015, there were 22 Chicago aldermen who received political donations from individual hotels, hotel/motel companies or political action committees representing hotels. The aldermen receiving money include:

Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) $22,500
Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) $14,250
Alderman Michele Smith (43rd Ward) $10,500
Alderman Patrick Thompson (11th Ward) $6,000
Alderman Will Burns (4th Ward)* $6,000
Alderman Emma Mitts (37th Ward) $4,250
Alderman Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) $3,500
Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. (21st Ward) $2,800
Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward) $2,500
Alderman Michael Scott Jr. (24th Ward) $2,500
Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) $2,000
Alderman Matt O`Shea (19th Ward) $1,550
Alderman Carrie Austin (34th Ward) $1,500
Alderman Ed Burke (14th Ward) $1,500
Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) $1,500
Alderman Patrick O`Connor (40th Ward) $1,350
Alderman Deb Mell (33rd Ward) $1,000
Alderman James Cappleman (46th Ward) $1,000
Alderman Willie B. Cochran (20th Ward) $1,000
Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward) $1,000
Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th Ward) $500
Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward) $500

* Alderman Burns resigned from City Council in 2016 to take a job with Airbnb.


Project Six was unable to find any direct political donations to aldermen from Airbnb. According to a lobbying report from the Illinois Secretary of State, Airbnb contractually hired McGuireWoods, a consulting and lobbying firm.

It is unclear how much Airbnb is paying McGuireWoods or if McGuireWoods has made any donations on Airbnb’s behalf. According to lobbyist registration forms filed with the Chicago Board of Ethics, Airbnb spent approximately $17,000 on advertising opposing the proposed restrictions but made no donations to any aldermen. McGuireWoods represents 49 companies in Illinois.

A full list of donations made to Chicago aldermen from hotel lobbying groups and hotel companies is attached, as well as the lobbying registration forms for Airbnb.


Photo Credit

Pictured is Alderman Michele Smith who has been one of the most vocal opponents to Airbnb operations in Chicago



2015 hotel lobby donations to Chicago aldermen

All political donations made by hotel lobbying organizations and individual hotels to Chicago aldermen in 2015

2015 Airbnb lobbying disclosure forms

All registered lobbying and political advertising information from Airbnb for 2015