The Illinois Attorney General’s office closed an investigation involving a Chicago housing advocate and claims of vote-buying in the 25th Ward during the 2019 Chicago municipal election, with no charges being filed.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s Office said recently they did not have enough evidence to meet their burden of proof against Leah Levinger, a long-time advocate for affordable and public housing issues in Chicago. The office concluded the investigation in the spring of 2020, the spokesperson said, adding that it is not common policy to issue a public statement when an investigation has run its course.
The probe stems from a complaint during the February 2019 municipal election, when now-Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez was one of five candidates vying for the open 25th Ward seat on the Near South Side.
Levinger’s group handed out gift cards to residents at the Barbara Jean Wright Court Apartments, a housing complex that straddles the 11th and 25th Wards. Some voters at the complex said they were promised $20 gift cards in exchange for supporting Sigcho-Lopez.
The alderman’s campaign denied being involved. Levinger acknowledged her group offered gift cards, but said it was only a way to encourage voter turnout and no conditions were attached. Election authorities told WBEZ in February 2019 that they told Levinger it was illegal to offer money to anyone to encourage them to vote. Levinger said at the time that after being notified by the election authorities, her group stopped promoting the initiative.
On Dec. 9, Levinger filed suit against WBEZ and the journalists covering the story on its behalf. In the complaint, Levinger alleges that there were libelous statements and mischaracterizations in a December 2019 article that she said damaged her professional and personal reputation.
WBEZ stands by the accuracy in its reporting regarding Levinger and denies the claims alleged in the lawsuit.
Levinger did not respond to a request for comment.