PILSEN — The state’s highest court ruled against Pilsen Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) in his case challenging former Ald. Danny Solis’ use of campaign funds to pay personal lawyers.
Sigcho-Lopez, a longtime rival of Solis, filed a 2019 complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections in response to former alderman’s use of $220,000 in campaign funds to pay a criminal defense lawyer as he worked as an FBI mole as the feds investigated corruption by Illinois public officials. Solis has not been charged with a crime.
In his complaint, Sigcho-Lopez alleged it makes no sense to prohibit politicians from using cash from campaign contributors for personal reasons — like clothes, haircuts and club memberships — but allow them to pay “legal expenses not related to their campaigns for political office.”
In Thursday’s ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court sternly condemned public corruption, but ultimately upheld the Board of Election’s decision to dismiss Sigcho-Lopez’s complaint. The state’s election code does not specifically prohibit the use of campaign funds for personal legal fees, the judges wrote.
“Until the General Assembly amends the statute to, for example, specifically
prohibit payment from campaign funds for legal fees incurred in defense of criminal
allegations against a public official or candidate, the issue requires the Board’s
consideration on a case-by-case basis, applying the plain language of the applicable
statutory provisions,” the court’s ruling read.
Sigcho-Lopez, who was elected alderman in 2019, blasted the decision.
“If the law allows corrupt politicians to use campaign funds for legal defense fees, then it’s time to change the law,” he said.
Solis could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2019, it was revealed that Solis had been working with the FBI for two years to secretly record former Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Solis was pressured to work with investigators after they confronted him with his own questionable behavior. Federal agents alleged Solis received sex acts at massage parlors, the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and campaign contributions in exchange for ushering deals through City Council.
The $220,000 in campaign cash that was used for a criminal defense lawyer was in relation to Solis’ cooperation with the investigation.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: