Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed staffers working on her reelection campaign on Thursday after an email was sent out that asked teachers to incentivize students to volunteer for her campaign for class credit. Lightfoot called the email a “mistake.”
The Chicago mayor said on Thursday that she denounces the recruiting email and blamed her campaign staffers for sending the email to several Chicago Public School teachers. WTTW News reports that the emails sent by Lightfoot’s campaign manager Megan Crane said that teachers should offer students “credit” for volunteering through the campaign’s “externship program.”
“There was absolutely no nefarious intent on the part of the staff person and there simply was no coercion, I’ve seen that question bubble up. There was no coercion, no intent to do that by any means by this young woman and no city resources were used,” Lightfoot said in a press conference Thursday.
Lightfoot claimed to not be aware of the email until earlier on Thursday when she was asked about it by a reporter.
“I’ll repeat again, the outreach to the CPS teachers via their emails was a mistake, should not have happened, and is not going to happen again,” she reiterated.
The comments by Lightfoot were made after the Chicago Public Schools inspector general launched an investigation to determine whether any district policies were broken by the campaign.
The email said the campaign was looking to recruit “enthusiastic, curious and hard-working young people to help her win this spring. Students also had to have contributed 12 hours per week to the Lightfoot campaign to qualify for class credit,” WTTW reported.
The Chicago Teachers Union called the move a “shake down” and called it “unethical and wrong on so many levels.”
Mayoral challengers denounced the email, according to Fox 32. Lightfoot’s campaign reportedly pulled the offer and said it would “cease contact” with CPS employees “out of an abundance of caution.”
“All [Lightfoot campaign] staff have been reminded about the solid wall that must exist between campaign and official activities and that contacts with any city of Chicago or other sister agency employees, including CPS employees, even through publicly available sources, is off limits. Period,” the campaign said.
“The Lightfoot campaign’s email to Chicago Public School teachers urging them to offer extra credit to students as an incentive to volunteer on the Mayor’s re-election campaign is inappropriately coercive and raises First Amendment concerns,” the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials cannot use their office or power to coerce participation or to punish for lack of participation in political campaigns.”