Crunch Time: Ronald Serpico's prodigious fundraising in Melrose Park

A Melrose Park couple waits to get married in Chicago in December 2012. Melrose Park Mayor Ronald M. Serpico has raised $2.7 million for his campaigns since 1999. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune)

A Chicago suburb with an industrial history and an organized crime past.

A working class, ethnic community that 50 years ago had no Latinos and now is predominately Hispanic.

A Latino aspirant looking to unseat the entrenched incumbent top elected official who has been accused of corruption.

Sound familiar?

If you’re thinking Cicero, where Juan Ochoa, Lizveth Mendez and Ruperto De Loera are running against Larry Dominick, think again.

On this Christmas Day, we’re looking at Melrose Park, where Mayor Ronald M. Serpico has served since 1997.

We wrote last week about some of the questions surrounding the seven top donors to Dominick, who represented close to half of the money he had raised since first seeking the town presidency in 2004.

Based on a reader’s tip, we pulled the records from the Illinois State Board of Elections for all campaign donations to Serpico since 1999.

Several things stood out for us.

The first is the sheer volume of Serpico’s fundraising efforts.

Since 1999, he’s raised a total of $2.66 million.

Click here for a spreadsheet with all donations to Serpico’s campaigns.

That’s an average of $104 raised for each of Melrose Park’s 25,524 residents .

We’re talking children here, too.

To give just a little context, that’s nearly $1 million more than State Rep. Edward Acevedo raised during the same period.

For his part, Dominick has raised $358,206 since 2004.

That’s an average of $4 for each of Cicero’s 84,261 residents.

During those years, Serpico raised $1,487,623, or $58, per Melrose Park resident.

A related point is Serpico’s consistency.

He’s raised a minimum of $120,000, more than $2,000 per week, every year since 1999.

This includes each of the three years in between elections.

The third item that caught our attention was the amount of money Serpico contributed to his campaigns.

From 1999 to 2012 he donated $172,849 to his own coffers, our analysis found.

This says nothing about the $106,297 the Melrose Vision Party, the group that Serpico headed in 2009, and the groups Citizens to Elect Ronald M. Serpico, Sr. and Citizens for Ronald M. Serpico have given over the years.

In 2012 alone Serpico has given $29,500 to his campaign.

That’s more than four times the $6,560 that former Stone Park Trustee and Serpico opponent Jesus “Jesse” Martinez has raised this year.

Serpico’s total raised for 2012 is $162,280.

It’s important to be clear that money by itself does not win elections.

But it’s hard to see where a 25:1 fundraising lead and the powers of incumbency doesn’t give Serpico a nearly prohibitive advantage in the April election.

The larger discussion, and a national one at that, is why Latino communities in Cicero and Melrose Park have comparatively little political clout, even though they constitute 87 and 70 percent of the population, respectively.

Money is a part of the answer, to be sure.

But we believe there’s more to it than that, and we’re going to dig into it.

In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts.

So, in between opening presents and generally enjoying holiday festivities, please let us know what you think.


El autor

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein es Editor de Bases de Datos e Investigaciones Vívelohoy

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