Chicago Mayor Candidate ‘Pays To Play,’ Handing Out Cash To Supporters

M. Spencer GreenAP Images

Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson reportedly did not violate election law when handing out $300,000 in cash on Sunday to supporters at an event, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Wilson gave out the money Sunday during an event at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church where he was joined by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. The governor attended the church as a guest of Reverend Stephen Thurston.

After a video surfaced online Sunday where Wilson is seen holding bills and handing out a few to each person in a line, the candidate said he put in only $200,000 of the money. Rauner is reportedly responsible for the last $100,000.

“My wife and I have been blessed by God to be able to get a few material things out of life and so it’s up to us now, continually to share back with all of you and others,” Wilson told WGN News.

Campaign spokesman Scott Winslow told the Chicago Tribune the millionaire gave the money out to help people cover the cost of property taxes and other expenses. Winslow said the act was part of his long-standing work with the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation, his registered nonprofit. The nonprofit where Rauner believed his $100,000 was going to be used, not to be handed out at Sunday’s church event.

State lawmakers from both parties questioned the nature of the event with GOP state Representative David McSweeney, calling the act “so wrong.”

Because the funds came from the Democratic candidate’s foundation and not campaign money, the act was compliant with campaign laws, according to Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich. “As far as we can see, it looks like he didn’t use campaign funds for this,” Dietrich said. There was no mention of voting during the handout, encouraging Dietrich to see the act as legal.

Wilson is one of 10 challengers against current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is seeking a third term in February 2019. The millionaire choosing to use his own money said there is no issue with the act of trying to help Chicago citizens “make ends meet;” the only issue would be political.

“We dare them to make a campaign issue of this, bring it on.”

The medical supply company owner also ran for mayor during the 2015 election. Reportedly, Wilson is raising nearly $293,000 for his latest campaign, according to the Chicago Tribune. Taking out loans to aid his campaign, Wilson raised $281,000 of his campaign budget himself, records show.