In a quick about-face, Chicago mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza on Thursday said she gave away more than $140,000 in campaign cash she had accepted from embattled Ald. Danny Solis (25th Ward) and business partners of longtime Solis supporter Brian Hynes.
The move came a day after WBEZ reported that Solis and investors in Hynes' company had made a series of contributions to Mendoza — a Democrat who is the state's comptroller — in the last 10 months.
Initially, an aide to Mendoza had said the comptroller would keep the money because Solis has not been charged with a crime.
But Solis has cooperated with the federal investigation of allegedly crooked Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward), wearing a wire to secretly record conversations with Burke.
And newly released documents show that FBI agents seized files related to Hynes when they raided Burke's City Hall office in November.
Now, Mendoza says she will give the campaign contributions to a veterans organization in the Englewood neighborhood.
"These were legal contributions that were fully disclosed as is required by law," Mendoza said in a statement. "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 and Solis have been allies for about 20 years, and Mendoza gave away a total of $73,900 she had received from Solis-controlled political funds.
That included a $55,400 contribution from Solis' Democratic ward organization that was made at a Mendoza re-election fundraiser on March 15. It was the single biggest contribution Solis has made, according to state campaign-finance records.
On Wednesday, a Mendoza spokeswoman had said, "If Danny Solis is charged with wrongdoing, Susana will donate the contribution."
Another $67,650 was given to Mendoza in the last 10 months by five companies whose board members are also investors in a Chicago firm called Vendor Assistance Program LLC, records show. VAP was founded by Hynes and Solis' sister Patti Solis Doyle, though she sold her stake in the business in 2016.
VAP is the largest of five state-certified companies that emerged when Illinois began amassing multibillion-dollar unpaid bill backlogs.
The company buys up unpaid state bills, gives unpaid state contractors most of what they’re owed from state government upfront, and later pockets lucrative late payment penalties once the state comptroller’s office issues a check for the original obligation, sometimes years later.
Since 2011, VAP has received $183.9 million in state late payment premiums and is owed another $213.4 million, according to a November filing posted on the comptroller’s website as a result of a disclosure law Mendoza helped put into place.