Usually, when someone refers to “buying votes,” they mean something like the shady shenanigans of the Clinton Foundation, not actually handing out money. However, it is not “charitable donations,” nor speaking fees happening in Chicago, but rather, cold hard cash has been handed out, as WREG 3 News has confirmed.
Willie Wilson is a millionaire from Chicago who is running for mayor. He was seen passing out free money inside a church on the Windy City’s south side, according to WGNTV News. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, also running for re-election, found himself present at the questionable event at the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church. The event, Wilson claims, is “non-campaign related.” An aide to Wilson doled out “$300,000 to 2,000 people through the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation, a 501(c)(3).”
Organizations such as this “are tax-exempt, must not be organized for the benefit of private interests, and are restricted in how much political activities they can conduct.”
Dr. Wilson said that he gave the money away in an effort to help those homeowners who are struggling to pay off their property taxes.
“My wife and I have been blessed by God to be able to get a few of the material things out of life and so it’s up to us to now [sic] continually to share back with all of you all and others,” the doctor said to those at the church.
The fact that the man is running for mayor as he hands out the cash is raising more than a few eyebrows. “What the hell? Is Bruce Rauner using Willie Wilson and Corey Brooks to buy votes???” asked Democratic State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch on Twitter. (note: the actual pastor of the church is Rev. Stephen J. Thurston)
“Check this out if you wonder why Illinois politicians are often a national joke,” added Republican state Rep. David McSweeney in his tweet. “How can Willie Wilson, a candidate for Mayor of Chicago, literally hand out CASH at a public event? This is so wrong!”
To be fair, this is not something that Wilson has only begun. His charitable work is famous and he has a long history of Christian giving. However, to conduct this now was a dreadful idea.
After all, the church is to be seen as a place where believers lift each other up, and not for the perceived good of just winning an election only. That may not have been anyone’s intention but that is clearly the way that this is going to be seen.
F. Scott Winslow, “Wilson for Mayor” campaign spokesman, mentioned this when he informed the media that Wilson has “probably given away $500,000” since he launched his second bid for mayor. However, “While he happens to be a candidate, he’s been a philanthropist for 30 years,” he added.
The problem is, even though Wilson himself broke no laws, having the governor speak before the money was handed out at the church on Wilson’s behalf (and espousing his credentials) made the event “feel political.” This is the nuance that reeks of buying votes…literally.
“You pay the highest property taxes in America here in Chicago and the South Side and the south suburbs,” the governor claimed (though some in California, New York, and elsewhere may say otherwise). “This is wrong. The system is broken and I’m trying to fix it.”
Rauner is, himself, “facing Democrat J.B. Pritzker in November,” and he is perfectly correct about how high taxes hurt the common person. However, even a great truth like that can smell like sewage when mixed with a money handout as it was conducted.
Bad form, Chicago, bad form.