Mayor challenger Willie Wilson criticizes Lightfoot over campaign donations to Allies Committee

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Chicago businessman Willie Wilson ripped Mayor Lori Lightfoot over a committee set up by her allies that isn’t tied to how much money donors can give or who they are – Lightfoot restrictions must keep.

“It’s wrong. You’re not really running the city for the people; you’re running this city for a few select individuals who have the money, to … buy their way and control the other million or 2 million people in Chicago,” he said Wilson at a Wednesday morning press conference: “It’s flat out wrong.”

The 77 Committee, led by an experienced top Lightfoot adviser, is allowed to accept unlimited money, including from city contractors who are strictly bound by city ethics rules, to contribute to Lightfoot’s campaign fund or a Lightfoot-aligned political action committee.

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The establishment of the new independent spending committee in October underscores the political strife that Lightfoot supporters anticipate in the coming months as well as the significant loopholes in the city’s campaign finance law and ethics rules designed to limit the influence of political lenders on government actions of elected officials.

While the 77 Committee is not limited in how much money it can receive or from whom, as an independent spending committee it cannot coordinate with Lightfoot or other political campaigns. It has already received $100,000 from politically connected companies — $80,000 from a table tennis company whose chairman is also president of an information technology company that does business with the city, and $20,000 from a South Side construction company that is on a city contractor list and also is working on the Obama presidential center.

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In addition, committee chair Sean Harden, who is also president of the nonprofit Friend Health, recently opened a health center in Woodlawn that is expected to receive $8 million in tax increases from the city.

The new commission follows in the footsteps of Lightfoot’s predecessor, former mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose allies created a massive campaign fund that raised more than $5 million in one year to help Emanuel win a second term.

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During his press conference, Wilson said he would create an ethics office to address potential conflicts of interest, but it was not clear how that would work. The 77 Commission is a perfectly legal solution to local campaign contribution laws.

Dave Mellet, the commission’s executive director, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Lightfoot did not immediately comment.

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