The Illinois State Board of Elections ruled Friday that mayoral candidate Willie Wilson did not violate election laws by handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars at a South Side church.
Wilson responded by denouncing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen he blames for the scrutiny as “a bunch of a————————.”
Wilson offered no evidence that the mayor or aldermen orchestrated the complaint filed against him by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, but he said the election board’s decision marked “a sad day for Rahm Emanuel.”
“These guys, Rahm Emanuel, these lawyer guys, they’re a bunch of a——————— for even thinking of doing something like this,” Wilson said. “These white politicians who are crooked, these black politicians who are crooked, we’re gonna go at them, getting them out of office.”
In addition to Emanuel, he criticized Chicago aldermen who take money from the mayor and rich people who take from the poor. “I call them all snakes,” he said. “We are going to get the snakes out of the woods.”
The mayor’s office and campaign declined to respond to Wilson’s remarks.
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, an independent watchdog organization, filed a complaint after Wilson handed out $200,000 in checks and $40,000 in cash at a South Side church last month. The group alleged Wilson violated state law by not reporting his donations as an in-kind contribution to his mayoral political committee.
Wilson’s lawyer, Frank Avila, said the philanthropic event was devoid of any political agenda, and that this type of charitable giving is common for the millionaire businessman, whose foundation frequently assists individuals with their property taxes.
“Dr. Wilson has done philanthropic giving for 30 years, and he will continue to do so,” Avila said. “This is part of his own faith and his beliefs. He came up poor as a sharecropper in Louisiana until he was given some opportunities, and he’s become like a Horatio Alger here in Chicago.”
Avila stressed all the money came from Wilson’s own pockets and not campaign finances. Wilson has said he often brings cash to his giving events as many of the people he assists don’t have bank accounts.
David Melton, senior advisor, board member and treasurer for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the organization wasn’t targeting Wilson, but rather wanted to enforce a strict separation between giving money and political activities.
In the hearing, Wilson admitted he had made a mistake, and that any campaign ties were unintentional, Melton said. While the watchdog group has lauded Wilson for his philanthropy, any mixing of campaigning and giving, intentional or not, should be strictly regulated, Melton said.
Wilson’s doling out of cash to help people pay their property taxes sparked an outcry among politicians and some embarrassment for Gov. Bruce Rauner, who attended the July event with Wilson and contributed $200,000 of his own money to Wilson’s foundation.
The governor insisted he knew nothing about the cash giveaway, calling it “outrageous,” and announcing that he would not contribute any more money to the foundation.
Philanthropic events on Sunday and Tuesday will mark Wilson’s foundation’s final giveaway until after the election.
“I’ll die first and go to heaven before I stop helping poor people,” Wilson said.
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