The Crusader Newspaper Group

Black aldermen who endorsed Vallas get $236K in campaign donations

Photo caption: Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th) (left), Anthony Beale (9th) (top center), David Moore (17th) (top right), Derrick Curtis (18th) (bottom right) and Emma Mitts (37th) (bottom center)

Former Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas directly or indirectly gave nearly $236,000 in campaign donations to seven Black aldermen who endorsed him during his unsuccessful runoff campaign against upstart winner Brandon Johnson.

The aldermen were among dozens of Black leaders heavily criticized and called “sellouts” as they supported Vallas. Known as the law-and-order candidate, Vallas was backed by the Fraternal Order of Police over Johnson, a progressive Black candidate whose platform addressed Chicago’s crime problem by campaigning for increased funding for social programs.

Vallas relied heavily on Black aldermen and Black community leaders to win a piece of the Black vote. A Crusader analysis shows Vallas won over 24 percent of the vote, but that wasn’t enough to win the election, despite numerous endorsements from Black leaders, including retired Congressman Bobby Rush and Secretary of State Jesse White.

In the latest filings after the April 4 runoff, records show huge Vallas campaign donations totaling $235,182 to Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th), Anthony Beale (9th), David Moore (17th), Derrick Curtis (18th) and Emma Mitts (37th).

Vallas also gave donations to Alderman Sophia King’s Chief of Staff Prentice Butler, who lost his bid for the 4th Ward to former State Representative Lamont Robinson. Vallas also gave donations to Shedrick Sawyer, the brother of Alderman Roderick Sawyer who chairs the 6th Ward Democratic Organization.

Vallas gave Shedrick Sawyer two separate donations totaling $67,850, which includes a hefty $65,000 contribution on March 27, according to campaign filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Alderman Harris received two separate $15,200 donations for a total of $30,400. The campaign donations were given to the 8th Ward Democratic Organization, which Harris chairs.

Butler, on April 5, received $60,000 from Vallas, weeks after Alderman King, his boss, shocked many Blacks and progressives when she endorsed Vallas. King served as chair of the city’s Progressive Council. Butler lost the election taking nearly 34 percent of the vote to Robinson’s 66 percent. On February 16, campaign records show King gave a $16,000 donation to Butler’s aldermanic campaign.

On April 4, Vallas gave Alderman Mitts a $15,500 campaign contribution, weeks after she was re-elected to a seventh term during the primary on February 28.

On March 27, Vallas gave $29,475 to the 17th Ward Democratic Organization in Alderman Moore’s 17th Ward. That same day, Vallas gave Alderman Curtis a $16,957 campaign donation.

News reports and public documents show Vallas lost the runoff, despite outspending Johnson 2 to 1 during the weeks leading up to the April runoff election.

Reports show Vallas spent $18.6 million over the course of his campaign, $12.6 million of that during the runoff.

In the first quarter of the year alone, Johnson raised $8.6 million and spent $9.4 million, with $576,000 cash left on hand. Over that same period of time, Vallas raised $18.3 million and spent $17.7 million, with a reserve of $1.7 million at the end of March, according to NBC5 Chicago.

Vallas’ campaign spending on television ads doubled Johnson’s. Records show Vallas spent $9.9 million to Johnson’s $5 million over the course of the election cycle through March 31.

Vallas, who accused Johnson of running a campaign that promised to defund the police, conceded less than an hour after polls closed on election night April 4 after falling behind Johnson by several thousand votes. Johnson won 52 percent of the vote to Vallas’ 48 percent.

In a separate incident, on April 20, Vallas in Cook County Court filed a lawsuit against Chimaobi Enyia, a political consultant who is accused of defrauding his campaign out of $680,000. Vallas alleged that Enyia falsely claimed the money was spent on get-out-the-vote efforts in Chicago’s Black communities.

In the complaint, Enyia told the campaign he had effectively been given a “blank check” for $700,000 to do campaign work in Black neighborhoods for the mayoral runoff. The lawsuit says Enyia was allegedly unable to account for $680,000 he received over a series of payments. Vallas’ campaign is now pushing to recoup all the money Enyia was paid.

Vallas said in a statement he was “disappointed in the outcome of a hard-fought campaign” but didn’t address the damning allegations directly.

“During an independent review of the Vallas for Mayor raise and spend, and as we prepared to file our report with the Illinois State Board of Elections, we flagged a pattern of payments to a vendor, which are not in dispute,” he said.

On April 24, Enyia, who reportedly was a staffer of former Governor Pat Quinn,  responded with a statement that he will fight the “shameful” lawsuit, calling it “unfounded” and “absolutely unfair.”

In a press release sent to the Chicago Tribune through his attorney James Dahl, Enyia said, “I have known Paul Vallas for years. I regarded him as a trusted friend. He trusted me. Now after I have provided my help, Vallas wants to claw back my compensation. That is absolutely unfair.”

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