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Alvarez, Peraica still trading barbs on questionable donors
By Joseph Ryan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/31/2008 12:03 AM

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Republican Tony Peraica and Democrat Anita Alvarez continue to blast each other over questionable campaign contributions as they compete to be Cook County's top prosecutor.

On Peraica's side, the suburban county commissioner has been forced to give back $2,700 in contributions to his past campaigns from convicted felons.

Alvarez is taking heat for raking in tens of thousands of dollars from underlings at the Cook County state's attorney's office and a law firm that profits from suing the county.

"How is the public supposed to believe Anita Alvarez will aggressively defend their interests?" Peraica said in a press statement.

At issue is more than $70,000 Alvarez took from personal injury attorney Robert Clifford, principal partner of Clifford Law Offices.

Clifford serves as her finance committee chairman, helping to bring in additional campaign cash, and he also has won millions of dollars in settlements against county offices.

Most recently, Clifford won $100 million in a suit against the county over the six deaths in a fire at the Cook County Administration Building in downtown Chicago.

Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly said the contributions from Clifford and his role in suing the county doesn't create a conflict of interest. Alvarez has a 22-year history in the state's attorney's office and is second in command under Dick Devine.

But if she wins and she decides there is an appearance of a conflict in any future lawsuits, Alvarez would "do the appropriate thing," such as bringing in outside attorneys to handle the case, Daly said.

Still, Daly said that would be "a big if."

As for state's attorney employees contributing to her campaign, Daly said Alvarez sees no problem.

"She has an ongoing personal and professional relationships with those in the office who support her candidacy," Daly said.

This latest bout over campaign contributors follows a Daily Herald report that revealed Alvarez accepted $500 from a former Chicago alderman who is a target of a federal corruption investigation.

Alvarez refuses to return that money, saying the man has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Alvarez, a Chicagoan who cleared a crowded Democratic primary in February, easily outpaces Peraica in fundraising. She took in more than $1 million in the first six months of the year.

Alvarez had $167,957 in the bank as of June 30, according to state reports, compared to Peraica's $43,522.