Toni Preckwinkle and Susana Mendoza tried Monday to scrape the mud from their shoes over the federal corruption scandal that threatens to bring down Ald. Edward Burke (14th).
Mendoza released an ethics plan, prompting ridicule from rival mayoral candidate Preckwinkle, who said the state comptroller is so tainted by her relationships with Burke and Ald. Danny Solis (25th) that voters can’t take her ideas seriously.
That follows Mendoza’s claim last week that the Cook County Board president’s mayoral campaign is tainted by it’s own “dirty money.”
Preckwinkle blasted Mendoza for releasing her ethics plan just days after purging herself of $141,550 in campaign contributions received over the years from Solis and from a debt collection firm founded by Solis’ sister and an attorney, Brian Hynes, with close ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Solis, retiring chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, has spent the last two years secretly recording more than a dozen conversations between Burke and movers and shakers seeking city actions to help federal investigators build their corruption case against Burke.
In a statement released Monday, Preckwinkle’s campaign noted that Hynes and his partners “profited $397 million from a loan scheme and gave $120,000 to Mendoza’s political account.”
“Comptroller Mendoza must answer why she would be comfortable with taking money from vendors profiting from the state budget crisis,” Preckwinkle was quoted as saying.
“With questions hanging over Mendoza’s ties to not only Ald. Solis and Hynes but also Ald. Burke, who hosted Mendoza’s wedding in his home and she has repeatedly called her mentor, Chicago voters cannot be expected to take any ethics plan from her seriously.”
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 by paying them up-front, then pocketing the interest from the state.
Jerry Morrison, assistant to the president of SEIU Local 1, one of Preckwinkle’s biggest backers, argued that Mendoza’s ethics plan was further compromised by its author: former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb.
That’s because Webb, who played a pivotal role in uncovering and prosecuting the Operation Greylord judicial corruption scandal, made 24 campaign contributions to Burke between 2004 and 2018 for a grand total of $41,000.
Webb acknowledged having made a series of contributions to Burke over the years. But he said, “I don’t know what that has to do with what happened here.”
The former federal prosecutor said he didn’t write Mendoza’s ethics plan.
“She just called me to run some ideas by me,” including creating a commission patterned after the one that recommended sweeping systemic reforms after Operation Greylord, Webb said.
The Mendoza campaign said Monday,“Susana is proud of her ethics plan that will crack down on politicians like Toni Preckwinkle who hand out millions in TIF dollars to donors who employ their sons. Toni Preckwinkle needs to come clean after lying to voters about returning the $116,000 she received from Ed Burke as part of a fundraiser that is now the subject of an FBI criminal complaint, covering up the sexual harassment allegations against her former chief of staff and firing her security chief after failing to report a stolen government van full of her political materials.”
Her ethics plan includes promises to: create an “anti-corruption accountability and ethics commission”; implement Freedom of Information reforms; strengthen the powers of the city’s inspector general; limit outside income for aldermen; end aldermanic prerogative; impose term-limits on alderman and city officials; reform Rule 14 governing aldermanic recusals and prohibiting family members of elected officials from being hired in Shakman-exempt positions.
Mendoza further promised to prohibit companies owned by or employing relatives of elected officials from receiving city contracts, city pension investments or tax-increment-financing (TIF) subsidies.
Mendoza’s problems stemming from the Burke-Solis scandal would seem monumental if it weren’t for the fact that Preckwinkle has been dragged down by it even more.
According to Mendoza’s pollster, Preckwinkle’s “net favorability” has plummeted since Burke was charged with shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal business and a $10,000 contribution to Preckwinkle’s re-election campaign for county board president.
Last week, 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.
For the first time, Preckwinkle acknowledged 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.”
After washing her hands of Solis-tainted money last week, Mendoza demanded that Preckwinkle to do the same within 24 hours with the $116,000 she raised during a fundraiser at Burke’s home a year ago.
“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.