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Willie Wilson ‘tired of white people telling me what to do’ with ‘my own money’

Mayoral candidate Willie Wilson: "People are tired of being taken advantage of with property taxes. When their property taxes went up, nobody stood up for 'em. But I did." | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Complaining that he is “tired of white people telling me what to do,” mayoral candidate Willie Wilson said Thursday that questions raised by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office about his charitable cash giveaways were politically motivated.

Wilson said Madigan should instead investigate Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his handling of the investigation of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. He also said Emanuel talked down to blacks during his remarks Monday in reaction to a rash of gun violence in black communities on the South and West Sides.

Wilson characterized inquiries about the cash handouts he made at a South Side church last month — which some critics suggest amount to vote buying — as an investigation that was spurred by political opponents.

Wilson claimed that four aldermen were acting as proxies for Emanuel when they introduced a resolution last month calling for multiple government agencies to look into the giveaways.

Wilson, speaking from the Chicago Baptist Institute International, 5120 S. King Dr., attempted to change the conversation to the Laquan McDonald case, Chicago violence and Emanuel. The mayor has faced criticism for talking about values, character and the need for an “attitudinal change” in Chicago when talking about the epidemic of shootings.

“He’s not only talking down to black people, he’s showing it,” Wilson said, referring to city investments he argues leave black communities behind.

A defiant Wilson added that he’s been handing out money to people in need for years and he plans to continue to do so.

“I was raised in the South Jim Crow days,” Wilson said. “I’m just tired of white people telling me what to do. It was with my own money, all right, I didn’t use taxpayer dollars.”

“As long as I am not breaking any laws of the United States of America I have a right to do what I want to do with my money,” he said. “I am not going to pass up a person on the street who’s laying down, don’t have legs and needs money for food to eat.”

Wilson adviser Ricky Hendon, a former alderman and state senator, scoffed at the notion of paying hundreds or in some cases, thousands, of dollars to buy black votes on the South and West Sides, saying the going rate would be far cheaper.

“If Willie Wilson is giving somebody $3,000, as an adviser, I’d be like, you’re overpaying by 1,500 percent,” Hendon said. “Because if we wanted to buy votes, it’s five or 10 bucks on the West Side, the South Side, so let’s just be real about that,” Hendon said.

Maura Possley, spokeswoman for Madigan, said inquiries about the cash handouts were not politically motivated and that the information the attorney general’s office was seeking from Wilson’s charitable foundation was not part of an investigation into wrongdoing, but a routine undertaking for the unit of Madigan’s office charged with regulating Illinois charities.

“When the cash giveaway happened we reached out with some questions just to understand what was going on,” Possley said. “It’s not illegal to give cash away.”

An Emanuel campaign spokesman declined to respond to Wilson’s remarks.

Wilson also said that Bruce Rauner — who donated $200,000 to Wilson’s foundation in the last year alone, but scoffed at the cash handouts after they made headlines — has not asked for any of his money back.

Wilson also alleged that the attorney general’s office mishandled paperwork his foundation filed last year.

“There is nothing wrong with my paperwork,” he said.

Hendon said a check in the amount of $315 that was sent last year to the attorney general’s office to cover a filing fee was returned in the last few weeks because it had expired.

“If you sit on the check 10 months of course it’s not good,” Hendon said.

Possley said Wilson’s foundation was in good standing and the issue Wilson was referring to boiled down to routine housekeeping that could easily be sorted out.

Wilson said his foundation would follow the direction of the attorney general’s office to fill out all forms and pay filing fees that needed to be updated.