New Illinois Taxi Industry PAC Flexes Muscle in Uber Battle

The new Illinois taxi industry PAC has opened its wallet.

The Chicago-based Illinois Transportation Trade Association, a trade group representing the taxicab industry, formed its political action committee at the end of May with a planned annual budget of $1 million to help defend itself politically against the onslaught by rideshare companies, such as Uber.

In May, the taxi PAC put $200,000 in the bank.

Now they're ready to spend.

"We're giving now," a PAC insider said. "The plan is to be a significant player in the November elections and in the 2015 municipal elections."

The group's first check, $15,000 was sent to House GOP Leader Jim Durkin on June 30. The second, $50,000, went to Senate President John Cullerton on July 17.

The source said that legislative leaders will be top beneficiaries of the taxi industry's largesse, but key rank-and-file lawmakers will also be supported.

"You'll see significant contributions for individual lawmakers between $2,500 and $5,000," according to the source who notes that small fundraising events are already scheduled for lawmakers.

The new PAC also plans to be active in open-seat legislative contests supporting candidates friendly to its interests; it will not oppose incumbent lawmakers, but it will back challengers in aldermanic races.

The taxi industry feels secure that it can hold its veto-proof majority in the event that Governor Pat Quinn vetoes in the coming days or weeks legislation, HB 4075, that regulates rideshare firms. By opening its wallet now, the industry is strengthening its political hand.

Uber and its legislative allies have already begun a veto push. Last week, State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) teamed up and published an Op-Ed on The Illinois Observer web site calling on Quinn to veto the bill.

While Quinn weighs whom he will piss off -- Uber fans in Chicago's Democratic-vote rich wards or the taxi industry -- the new PAC's backers are eager to fill their war chest and spend their riches, the source says.

Their enthusiasm, however, did run ahead of their campaign finance expertise last week.

Chicago Elite Cab Corp. last week donated $200,000 in a single sum to the PAC, running afoul of Illinois campaign finance limits. They had to return $180,000. Oops.

Finance accounting snafus aside, the taxi industry is making its new 800-pound political guerrilla status felt.


David also edits, with the help of Capitol Fax's Rich Miller, The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.