Chicago businessman Willie Wilson scammed Mayor Lori Lightfoot over a committee set up by her allies who are not bound by how much money they can give to donors or who they are – Lightfoot restrictions must comply.
“This is wrong. You’re not really running this city for the people; you’re running this city for a select few people who have the money to … buy your way and control another million or 2 million people in Chicago,” Wilson said at a Wednesday morning news conference. “It’s just wrong.”
The Committee of 77, led by a long-time leading Lightfoot adviser, may accept unlimited funding, including from city contractors who are strictly required by the city’s ethics policy to contribute to a Lightfoot campaign fund or a Lightfoot-affiliated political action committee.
Establishment of a new independent spending committee in October highlights the political battle that Lightfoot supporters expect in the coming months, as well as the significant loopholes that exist in campaign finance laws and the city’s rules of ethics that are designed to limit the influence that political supporters have over the actions of the government of elected officials.
While the 77 Committee is not restricted in how much money it can receive or from whom, as an independent spending committee it cannot coordinate with Lightfoot or any political campaigns. He has already received $100,000 from politically affiliated companies – $80,000 from a table tennis company whose president is also the president of an IT company that does business with the city, and $20,000 from a listed South Side construction company and is also working at the Obama Presidential Center.
In addition, the chairman of the committee is Sean Harden, who is also the chairman of the non-profit organization Friend Health, which recently opened a health center in Woodlawn, which expected to receive $8 million in financial incentives in the form of tax increases from city.
The new committee follows in the footsteps of Lightfoot’s predecessor, former mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose allies set up a massive campaign fund that raised more than $5 million in one year to help Emanuel win a second term.
At his press conference, Wilson said he would set up an ethics office to address potential conflicts of interest, but it was unclear how that would work. Committee 77 is a perfectly legal circumvention of local campaign contributions laws.
Dave Mellet, the committee’s executive director, declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Lightfoot campaign issued a statement saying that the Committee of 77 “is a fully independent entity from the campaign and we have no communication or influence over their strategy or operations. Mr. Wilson, however, throws stones from the glass house when it comes to campaign finances – he funds his own campaign himself and refuses to disown the supreme commander of ethics violations: Donald Trump. We will continue to focus on our own campaign apparatus and we will do so legally.”
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