Cash For Votes or Mistake? $300,000 Cash Given Away at Illinois Political Event
Politicians paying for votes is nothing new, but it has perhaps never been as brash as it was last Sunday when at an event headlined by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayoral candidate officials handed out $300,000 in cash.
The incident took place at a Sunday Church service on Chicago’s South Side where Rauner told the crowd, “We’re honored to help you pay your property taxes. Happy to do it.” According to POLITICO, Wilson then stood inside the church with “stacks of cash” and handed out bills to passersby.
Rauner’s team told Politico Rauner had already left the church when Wilson handed out the money and thus hadn’t violated any laws. They also claimed Rauner’s comment about being happy to pay attendees’ property taxes was in reference to Rauners work with Wilson’s private foundation and not in reference to the cash giveaways.
POLITICO reported Wilson told them the money given away was from his foundation and that $100,000 of it came from Rauner himself.
Part of the issue though is that Rauner campaigns on an anti-corruption platform and portrays himself as an anti-corruption crusader.
“Beyond embarrassment, the people of Illinois have also been forced to deal with the harmful consequences of corruption: state government dominated by the Chicago political machine and pay-to-play politics,” Rauner continued.
While he was not present while the cash was being present, Rauner has still been strongly criticized as a result of what happened.
Ken Menzel who serves as general counsel at the Illinois State Board of Elections said: “It looks kind of skeevy.”
“If that were the threshold for Illinois politics, the chambers would be empty,” he added.
While reflecting on the recent issue as well as the problem of corruption in Illinois, Burt Odelson who has been an election attorney for the past 45-years said: “It’s always happened, it just depends on what scale, what magnitude … Situations close to this but smaller in scale were prevalent back in the day. Not to this magnitude and not to this openness, but yes, I’ve seen this before.”
Rauner has since responded to the incident, and on Monday he noted that he was not aware of what Wilson had planned to do and his campaign said they disapproved of Wilson handing out cash at the event.
Governor Rauner has supported the Willie Wilson Foundation to help people hurt by the rigged property tax system in Cook County. He was not aware that any cash was going to be handed out at the event,” campaign spokesman Alex Browning said Monday. “The governor respects Dr. Wilson’s philanthropic pursuits, but believes distributing cash is inappropriate for any candidate seeking public office.”
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform told POLITICO that while nothing illegal transpired at the event, the actions were certainly questionable.
“But there definitely are ethical questions that need to be asked,” said Eric Bradoch, an analyst for the non-partisan public interest group. “Is it right for a governor to go to an event where he knows charitable donations are being made and also at the same time promote himself as a candidate for governor?”