Buying votes is something that’s typically seen in third world nations; however, it’s now come to the Northeastern United States as Democratic Chicago mayoral candidate Dr. Willie Wilson handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in free cash to potential voters.
The free cash giveaway took place at the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, at which time Dr. Wilson handed out free wads of bills to about 2,000 church attendees. In total, $300,000 was given away at this one-time event. It is estimated that while about $200,000 of the money came from Dr. Wilson’s charitable foundation, the additional $100,000 came directly from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is also currently running for re-election as governor of Illinois.
Gov. Rauner’s spokesman later claimed that while the governor did give a $100,000 donation to Dr. Wilson’s foundation, the governor had no idea that they money would be given directly to Chicago residents. He stated that while he approves of the foundation’s charitable efforts, he does not agree with the concept of a political candidate handing out cash directly to potential voters for any reason.
Dr. Wilson defended his move to give away free cash by noting that it was intended to provide people in the neighborhood with property tax relief assistance. The giveaway was announced by the foundation’s Twitter account ahead of time, and the announcement also noted that the elderly and less fortunate individuals would receive special assistance. The stunt is sure to generate a great deal of gratitude among South Side residents, as many of them not only have a limited budget but also struggle to pay some of the highest property tax rates in the nation.
When informed of the giveaway, the Board of Elections noted that while Dr. Wilson’s actions were unusual, they did not violate campaign rules because the money came entirely from a charitable foundation rather than campaign funds. The board also reported that it has not received complaints regarding the event. Additionally, as Dr. Wilson’s campaign manager reported, the event was not an official campaign event but rather a philanthropical one. The campaign manager also noted that Dr. Wilson has been heavily involved in charitable events for the last 30 years; what is more, he has donated about $500,000 to charitable causes since he announced his bid for mayor.
Even so, Board of Elections statements and other circumstances surrounding the event haven’t stopped politicians from both parties from complaining about the incident. Republican State Representative David McSweeney said the incident is one good example of why politicians from the state are considered to be a national joke, adding that he felt that handing out cash at a public event was totally wrong. Democrat State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch accused Republican Governor Rauner of joining in on the event in order to buy votes. Additionally, a local news channel noted that while the event was not an official campaign event, it did have a political feel as Gov. Rauner gave an initial address and used the opportunity to promote his tax agenda and anti-high property tax stance.
When Mr. Wilson made news in April for donating $100,000 of his own money to his mayoral campaign, he told the press that he was ready to do whatever it took to win the race for mayor. It is now clear that, unlike many politicians, he actually meant what he said. The move to give away hundreds of dollars of free cash to potential voters will almost ensure that Mr. Wilson is not forgotten about in a race where he is competing against ten other candidates.
While it remains to be seen if the people he gave free cash to will show up on election day to vote for him, the odds of them doing so are probably higher now than if he had chosen some other means to help the poor that did not involve fistfuls of cash and foundation-issued checks. Once again, Chicago’s reputation as one of the most politically corrupt cities in the United States is uncontested.
~ Liberty Planet