Mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza is purging herself of $141,550 in campaign contributions received over the years from Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and from a debt collection firm founded by Solis’ sister and an attorney with close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Mendoza’s quick about-face comes one day after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Solis, retiring chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, has spent the last two years wired up to help federal investigators build their corruption case against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th).
Normally, elected officials agree to go undercover only after they themselves have been caught in corruption scandals.
Assuming that Solis was no exception, Mendoza is taking no chances. She’s washing her hands of the money she received from Solis and his 25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization as well as contributions she got from Vendors Assistance Program LLC, the company founded by Patti Solis Doyle and attorney Brian Hynes, the former Madigan aide with close ties to Danny Solis.
“I am donating $73,900 received from Danny Solis’ political organizations and $67,650 received from VAP-related organizations and individuals to the very worthy Montford Point Marines war heroes and veterans to save their chapter hall in Englewood and help fund critical repairs,” Mendoza was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.
“These were legal contributions that were fully disclosed as is required by law. Nonetheless, given new information that has come to light regarding these individuals and organizations, my value system dictates that I immediately donate these funds to this worthy cause.”
Mendoza tried to take the spotlight off herself and turn up the heat on Toni Preckwinkle, who has suffered even more after being dragged into the Burke scandal.
On Wednesday, Preckwinkle was forced to confront yet another allegation — that Burke’s son was under investigation for sexually inappropriate conversations at the sheriff’s office when he was promoted to a sensitive Homeland Security job by the Preckwinkle administration.
“I call on Toni Preckwinkle to do the same within 24 hours with the $116,000 she received from the Ed Burke fundraiser that is now the subject of an FBI criminal complaint. By waiting until the end of March to return this tainted money, she is choosing to use dirty money to get her through this mayoral election. That’s shameful,” Mendoza was quoted as saying.
“From accepting an illegal campaign contribution from an alleged extortion scheme, to covering up sexual harassment allegations against her chief of staff, to firing the head of her security detail to cover up using a county vehicle for political purposes, to yesterday’s revelation of a patronage hiring, it’s clear that Toni Preckwinkle is the boss of the party bosses and is the last person who can be trusted to end this backroom culture of corruption she’s been a part of over the last quarter of a century.”
Burke has been charged with attempted extortion for allegedly shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal business and for a $10,000 campaign contribution to Preckwinkle.
On Wednesday, Preckwinkle acknowledged for the first time that Burke Jr. got the promotion, after a personal pitch from his powerful father.
“I had a meeting with Ed Burke. He shared with me that his son was looking for a new opportunity. His son had worked for the county for 20 years. He was working for the sheriff,” Preckwinkle said.
“I gave his resume to the Department of Homeland Security. … They vetted his resume and the head of Homeland Security Mike Masters decided to hire him.”
Preckwinkle said she had no idea at the time of that promotion that the alderman’s son was under investigation at the sheriff’s office.
“We have no access to the personnel files of separately-elected officials any more than we have access to the files of private corporations when we hire someone,” Preckwinkle said of Sheriff Tom Dart, with whom she has feuded for years over budget issues.
“If we’d known of the investigations, I wouldn’t have hired him.”
Patti Solis Doyle sold her interest in Vendor Assistance Program LLC more than two years ago.
The Sun-Times has previously reported that the company benefits from a program tailor-made to speed payments to state vendors whose payments lag. That poses a potential conflict for Mendoza, the state comptroller who decides which bills get paid and how quickly they are processed.