Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, now running to succeed Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, has taken two campaign contributions this year from a Bridgeport trucking executive with ties to a government mole involved in a federal investigation.
Valencia got a $1,000 campaign contribution in March from William Pacella, president of Pacella Trucking Express, Inc., at 25th Street and Racine Avenue, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records.
And her Friends for Anna Valencia campaign fund-raising committee got $1,500 in June from Pacella’s company at 25th Street and Racine Avenue, the records show.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2019 that clout-heavy Cinespace Chicago Film Studio president Alexander Pissios told federal authorities he owed a $70,000 gambling debt to Pacella and had been sending $1,500 monthly checks to Pacella Trucking for four years.
Pissios — who the Sun-Times has reported began secretly cooperating with federal investigators after they threatened to charge him with bankruptcy fraud in March 2017 — told them he thought he was paying down the debt but discovered the payments never reduced the principal he owed on the loan. Pissios’ cooperation helped prosecutors get a guilty plea from former longtime Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli Sr. in an extortion scheme involving Cinespace.
Pacella, who didn’t respond to interview requests, hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.
In a written statement in response to questions, Valencia says: “I do not have a personal connection to William Pacella or his company. My campaign relies heavily on grassroots outreach to Democratic donors across the state for fundraising support. Given that Mr. Pacella has been a supporter of Democratic campaigns in the past, he was a part of our early donor outreach efforts.”
Pissios has acknowledged making illegal wagers on sporting events for years, dating to his days, long before running the West Side film and TV production hub, when he was selling fur coats at his uncle’s store on North Michigan Avenue.
Pissios’ lawyer has said that Pissios no longer owes Pacella any money, saying, “A promissory note prepared by an attorney has been paid in full.”
Pacella and his companies have made more than $300,000 in political contributions since the 1990s. Among those, his companies made two contributions totaling $6,000 in 2008 to one of Valencia’s challengers in the race to succeed White, who’s retiring — former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
Besides Valencia and Giannoulias, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and Ald. David Moore (17th) also have said they’re seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in the June 28 primary to head the office that handles driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations and also has been a stepping stone to higher office for officials including former Govs. Jim Edgar and George Ryan.
Pacella owns another company with Bridgeport businessman Fred B. Barbara. Each ran trucking companies in the early 2000s that City Hall hired under its Hired Truck Program. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley dumped them and every other trucking company when he shut down the program, which a Sun-Times expose revealed paid $40 million a year to clout-heavy trucking contractors that ended up doing little or no work on city construction jobs.
In 2013, the Sun-Times reported Pacella was an investor in a South Loop property with Rick Simon, a longtime associate of reputed mob figures.