CHICAGO — Candidate for Chicago mayor Susana Mendoza gave away $141,550 in campaign contributions connected to Alderman Danny Solis Thursday, distancing herself from the alderman after reports he wore a wire to secretly record conversations with Alderman Ed Burke while under a federal microscope himself.
Not long after the story about Solis broke, Mendoza’s connections to the alderman came under a spotlight. In response, she said if Solis was accused of any wrongdoing, she would "donate every penny to charity." She did just that Thursday, giving away money received from Solis and a firm founded by his sister, while trying to distance herself from the alderman.
"These were legal contributions that were fully disclosed as is required by law. Nonetheless, given new information that has come to light regarding these individuals and organizations, my value system dictates that I immediately donate these funds to this worthy cause," Mendoza said in a statement.
Records show Danny Solis’ 25th Ward Organization gave Mendoza $55,400 last March. Mendoza also collected contributions from Vendor Assistance Program (VAP), a firm founded by Solis' sister, Patti Solis Doyle, and attorney Brian Hynes.
There’s big money involved. VAP purchases unpaid state vendors' accounts receivable, and then keeps the late fees. Documents show VAP made $1.6 million in the third quarter of last year.
As state comptroller, Mendoza is the responsible for deciding which bills get paid and when. But in accepting VAP’s money, Mendoza says she does not see a conflict of interest.
"I’ve been very transparent as to my relationships. All of my contributions have been legal. I would never do anything contrary to that," Mendoza said.
The Mendoza campaign points out the Vendor Assistance Program considered suing the Comptroller for payment, and that she’s worked hard to reprioritize state payment to vendors.
Mendoza is also trying to shift the conversation to Toni Preckwinkle and the $116,000 she received from an Ed Burke fundraiser.
"She denied receiving a $10,000 contribution only to have to come clean about it after a criminal complaint was filed and exposed by the FBI," Mendoza said.
A Preckwinkle spokeswoman says she’s in the process of returning the money.
As Burke faces a criminal extortion charge, records surrounding an FBI raid on his aldermanic office revealed Thursday that investigators were looking for information showing he sought work for his private law firm in exchange for City Council votes. They also wanted to know if Burke was trying to gain patronage jobs for personal associates. Folders with information related to Brian Hynes, the co-founder of VAP, were also taken.