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ICPR files state complaint over Willie Wilson cash hand-outs

Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Real - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:09 pm:

    Talking about the money didn’t come from his campaign.. It came from Rauner’s and your pocket yet Rauner’s campaign staffer was at the event and Wilson streamed it on his campaign page. Lock them both up or in the least bar them from running for office.

  2. - Real - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:12 pm:

    Wilson is trying to double down on cash handouts at the same time he is running for office. I guess he believes his connection to Rauner will make him above the law too?? Wilson better realize he won’t get that same white man privilege as Rauner.

  3. - Archpundit - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:21 pm:

    So Wilson is saying (or his campaign which makes all of this more problematic) that he is handing out checks to individuals from his foundation only if they have been vetted and that the cash is a personal donation not from the foundation.

    Saying he has been doing this for years is then problematic as his foundation was started in December of 2016 at the latest.

    It does, however, change how to evaluate what he’s doing in relation to his foundation. He may be following the law, but giving the shifting explanations, I don’t take any of that at face value.

  4. - Archpundit - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:22 pm:

    All of the above says nothing about the appearance and the likely intent of passing out cash to support his candidacy. I never want to hear about walking around money ever again from anyone who supports Rauner.

  5. - snowman - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:23 pm:

    willie needs to come to spfld and spread his new found handout wealth

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:43 pm:

    –He may be following the law, but giving the shifting explanations, I don’t take any of that at face value.–

    “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,” is still a bedrock axiom for journalists. Most follow it, except for a couple of openly partisan tronc blowhards.

  7. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 12:49 pm:

    So when does Wilson’s pal Rauner blame Madigan for this?

  8. - KeepingitReal - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    I’m not a big fan of Willie but why are people hating on him? It’s his money, let him spend it how he wants. Instead of complaing on here about how he spends his money, why dont you talk about how to PASS legislation that can help people in the neighborhoods he’s trying to “buy”.

  9. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 2:46 pm:

    For me, while I appreciate his commitment to his community and the gesture, I have issues with this, not the least of which is how effective this gesture actually is. Still, it’s his mpney. However, there are things you can do legally and ethically with your own money and on your own time. The minute you start running for office additional obligations are placed on you under the law. You can either adjust your behavior to comply with those laws or take your chances and face the music for it. Granted, Dr. Wilson seems to always be running for something, but if he wants to act like a serious candidate he needs to run a professional campaign and abide by election law. Or, he can stop running for stuff and hand out all the cash he wants.

  10. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 3:07 pm:

    –Still, it’s his mpney.–

    If it’s from his charitable foundation, he solicits and accepts donations. Check his website.

    And Rauner has said he gave the foundation $200K.

    Once Wilson get his legal filings up to date, we’ll have a clearer picture.

  11. - Anonni - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 3:17 pm:

    I’d be curious what he pays any current and his former employees. The reason folks can’t afford their property taxes (or anything else) is that business owners want more profits at the expense of living wages.
    Charity by the wealthy is often a distraction from this very equation.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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