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Illinois Gov. Rauner Caught in Chicago Mayoral Candidate’s Cash Giveaway Flap

Bruce Rauner speaks during a news conference

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner decided in late July he won’t be giving any more money to millionaire Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson’s charitable foundation, and the African-American businessman decided he’s tired of white people telling him how to spend his money.

“I was raised in the South Jim Crow days,” Wilson said. “I’m just tired of white people telling me what to do. It was with my own money, all right, I didn’t use taxpayer dollars.”

Wilson, who owns several McDonald’s franchises in the Chicago area, along with the Omar Medical Supplies company, also produces a nationally syndicated gospel music TV program, Singsation.

Wilson, a Democrat, is running for mayor of Chicago for the second time. Wilson ran against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, and lost. Wilson ran for president in 2016 as a Democrat and was the first presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, to buy ads in Iowa for that election.

Rauner is running for re-election against J.B. Pritzker, and the race is much tighter than the Republican would like it to be. A June Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll showed Pritzker leading Rauner by nine points. Another 26 percent of the voters surveyed said they’d just as soon vote for an unnamed third-party candidate. Another 11 percent were undecided. So the last thing the Rauner campaign needs is this kind of aggravation.

At the core of this conflict is a South Side Chicago church event — attended by both men — at which Wilson was handing out cash and checks to parishioners. “We’re honored to help you pay your property taxes,” Rauner told those who were on the receiving end of the handouts, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. But the sight of an incumbent Republican governor helping a nonpartisan mayoral candidate hand out money four months away from an election was so unseemly that Rauner flipped a few days later, flopping to a position a few days later.

Although Rauner said helping poor people pay property taxes is a worthy cause, he added, “Just handing out cash randomly to people, I’ve never done that, and I think it’s not a good thing to do.”

Rauner also told reporters “as far as I know” none of the $200,000 he gave Wilson’s foundation was part of the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church handouts.

Rauner’s assurance that nothing untoward happened, on that Sunday in July at the Baptist church, failed to reassure Illinois senator and Conservative Party gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann.

“Governor Rauner has reached a new low,” said McCann in a statement. “This was a political event, and Bruce Rauner and Willie Wilson were handing out stacks of cash. This is the kind of old-school Democratic Machine politics that got us where we are today.”