CHINATOWN — A candidate running for alderman in the 25th Ward is accusing a prominent Chinatown nonprofit of engaging in electioneering on behalf of incumbent Ald. Danny Solis.
On Monday, Chinese American Service League President Bernarda "Bernie" Wong said the allegations were completely unfounded, and demanded Sigcho issue a full retraction of his previous statement.
In a letter addressed to ABC news anchor Linda Yu, who chairs the nonprofit's advisory board, Sigcho alleges that the Chinese American Service League is engaging in "partisan politics" by electioneering votes for Solis.
"I learned firsthand from the residents of gifts from the alderman, like frozen turkeys and free breakfast, lunch and dinner in exchange for voting for Danny Solis," Sigcho said. "In nearly all of the descriptions of the gifts, the Chinese American Service League was cited as the mode of transportation and communication."
In the letter, which was also sent to Sigcho's e-mail list, the candidate wrote that he wondered how incumbent Solis "was getting more than 80 percent of the votes" in Chinatown.
While knocking on doors with volunteer interpreters, Sigcho said a man living at Archer Courts said he was told to vote a certain way by someone on a bus owned by the Chinese American Service League. Archer Courts Apartments houses low-income seniors.
"An elderly gentleman who said he could not read any language told us that the CASL’s bus delivered him to his polling place and that he was told on the bus which ballot number he should punch," Sigcho wrote. "He said he was concerned about people finding out how he voted and about negative consequences if he voted the wrong way."
Others gave similar accounts of the "political process," Sigcho said.
Strongly denying Sigcho's "baseless" claims, Wong called on the candidate issue a public retraction.
"The allegations seem to be based upon an erroneous assumption that the CASL owns or controls Archer Courts in Chinatown," Wong wrote to Sigcho. "CASL does not own or control any interest in Archer Courts, and CASL does not send its staff to solicit support for any candidate, either at Archer Courts or anywhere else.
Wong said the nonprofit has never provided buses to Archer Courts, and hasn't provided busing or loaned buses to any groups during this election cycle.
As a nonprofit, the Chinese American Service League is prohibited from engaging in political electioneering on behalf of a candidate or issue. The agency's own bylaws also prohibit the political activity, Wong said.
On Monday, Sigcho refused to back down from his claims.
"It's clear from the testimony of the residents that what [the Chinese American Service League] is doing is not in line with what a nonprofit should be doing," he said.
Solis' campaign previously declined to comment, directing questions to the Chinese American Service League.
In 2011, under the old ward map, Solis won more than 85 percent of the vote in three Chinatown precincts.
The election is Feb. 24.
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