* He’s at it again today…
* Press release…
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) filed a formal complaint with the state today against Willie Wilson’s mayoral committee for failing to disclose money spent by the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation to promote his candidacy.
Wilson gave away a reported $300,000, including personally handing out a significant amount of cash, at a July 22nd event in Chicago. The money was reportedly provided by Wilson’s foundation, but the giveaway was promoted with a press release from Wilson’s campaign spokesman and the event was streamed live on Wilson’s campaign Facebook page.
ICPR believes the money spent by the foundation at the July 22nd event should have been disclosed as an in-kind contribution to the Wilson campaign because it was of material value to the campaign (the legal standard). Because the contribution was over $1,000, ICPR believes it should have been publicly reported on state campaign finance reports within 5 business days. That has not occurred. The complaint was filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
“We don’t take issue with a charitable foundation helping people, but when such actions are so clearly tied to a political campaign, that has to be disclosed because the public has a right to know how campaigns are spending money and where it comes from,” said ICPR Executive Director Mary Miro. “As the organization in the forefront of fighting the corrosive influence of money in politics, ICPR is compelled to file this complaint where the appearance of impropriety is so obvious.”
ICPR remains concerned about the continued potential for a blurring of lines between charities and politics – as vividly illustrated by a video of a mayoral candidate handing out cash at a campaign-like event. ICPR is also concerned with the apparent legality of Gov. Bruce Rauner contributing to the foundation, attending the money giveaway event and benefiting from it politically.
As Illinois’ leading nonprofit dedicated to addressing the role of money in politics and encouraging integrity, accountability and transparency in government, ICPR will continue to explore ways to make Illinois’ campaign finance laws clearer and more easily enforceable so the public can see how money is influencing their elections.
* From the complaint…
Although Wilson’s campaign argues that the Foundation has regularly given money away in this fashion, the most recent available Form 990 for the Foundation lists only $5,468 in assets on hand. See Exh. 1. In 2016, the Foundation spent approximately $24,500 on bail payouts, but it does not list any payments for property tax assistance, and the amount given away by the Foundation in the entire 2016 fiscal year was less than 10% of the amount given away in the one-day event on July 22, 2018. This is persuasive evidence that the purpose of the giveaway was, at least in material part, to promote Wilson’s campaign for Mayor of Chicago.
Complainant believes this is a potential violation of Illinois campaign finance law. To the extent that Wilson was in fact giving away money from the Foundation and promoting this giveaway through videos on his campaign Facebook page and through his campaign spokesperson, the money from the Foundation should be reported as an in-kind contribution. A “contribution” includes “anything of value, knowingly received in connection with . . . election . . . of any candidate or person to or in public office.” 10 ILCS 5/9-1.4(A)(1). Moreover, the money given away by Wilson at one event should be considered a single in-kind contribution from the Foundation to the Committee of $1,000 or more that has not been reported on an A-1 within 5 business days. An A-1 is required to be filed within 5 business days of receiving a contribution of $1,000 or more. 10 ILCS 5/9-10(c). As such, the Board should fine the Committee for its delinquent A-1 and require it to report the cash giveaway of $300,000 as an in-kind contribution from the Foundation to the Committee.
In addition, Complainant believes that there may be additional campaign finance law violations upon further investigation by the Board. Although Wilson’s campaign states that the money given away came from his Foundation, the most recent filing indicates that the Foundation had just over $5,000 in assets. As such, there is a reasonable question as to whether the money given away was from the Foundation or from Wilson’s personal assets. Moreover, to the extent that Wilson donated money to the Foundation for the express purpose of promoting himself as a philanthropist to further his campaign, this could potentially be a direct contribution to the campaign that has not been reported.