BRONZEVILLE — In the midst of an ugly re-election battle that has seen mudslinging on both sides, supporters of candidate Juliana Stratton have accused Rep. Ken Dunkin's campaign of paying people $50 to vote for him.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who has endorsed Stratton for the state legislature, said four volunteers went undercover and recorded the alleged voter fraud on Friday. But Dunkin staffers and campaigners said the accusations are untrue and show Stratton is "desperate." The allegations are the latest controversy in a tense campaign that's seen accusations fly and, most recently, an anti-Dunkin billboard shredded.
At a Sunday news conference, Dowell, flanked by Stratton and Secretary of State Jesse White, said last week volunteers noticed more people were voting than usual at Chicago Bee Library, an early voting location. They believe those voters were being paid and asked to "punch 121" to vote for Dunkin. Four volunteers went undercover, taking videos that appear to show them speaking with Dunkin supporters at a campaign office about where to vote and how to get paid, Dowell said.
People were "vetted," given a sample ballot and told to vote for Dunkin, Dowell said. The people were then taken to a van or bus to the library, voted, signed a "money sheet" and went to 2907 S. Wabash to show they voted and were paid $50 or $100, Dowell said, holding a bag full of money she said was given to the four people who went undercover.
In a video recorded by one of the people, a man wearing an orange Dunkin hat is seen passing out money to people signing papers in the office. A woman says, "You've got to sign your name on here," and the man says, "No address."
"Did he vote?" asks the man with the money.
"Yeah," says the man videotaping the events.
"Yeah, I got his [inaudible]," says the woman.
(The exchange begins at about 0:50 below.)
In another video, a woman wearing a red jacket standing outside the Dunkin office at 2907 S. Wabash Street is seen speaking with a man wearing a hidden camera.
"Thirty-seventh and State, that library, that's where everybody at," she says, likely referring to the Chicago Bee Library, 3647 S. State St. "And when they get through right there, they get their sheets in [inaudible] they voted, they come back here, and everybody just gotta make sure they punch 121."
The video man asks, "I gotta go down there and then come back here?"
She responds, "How you gonna get your money?"
Then another man in the background asks, "How much money?" and she responds, "Fifty dollars apiece."
The video man asks one more time, "I gotta come back down here to get paid?"
And she says, "Yeah 'cause that's the only way we gonna know you did it."
(The exchange begins at about 0:05 below.)
"I've been in office about 40 years and this is probably one of the worst things I've had the opportunity to see," said White at Sunday's news conference. "Many times individuals will be offered money to cast the vote. Of course to offer the bribe or to accept it is not right.
"Vote for the candidate of your choice without accepting. This is the vilest form of human indecency, and shame on Mr. Dunkin and his organization for doing this."
Juliana Stratton, who is running against Rep. Ken Dunkin, was part of a group saying there is evidence Dunkin supporters paid people to vote for him. But Dunkin's allies said Stratton is "scrapping" for votes. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Dunkin spokesmen did not immediately respond to requests to confirm the identity of people in the videos, but dismissed the allegations of voter fraud.
"The alderman's baseless accusations are consistent with tactics previously made by the Madigan/Stratton campaign. No one in our campaign is paying people to go vote. That's just untrue," said Dunkin spokesman Anthony Jackson, who was reached by phone Sunday. He noted that some people are paid for canvassing or phone banking and some are paid in cash at the office at 2907 S. Wabash Ave.
Sec. of State Jesse White joined Ald. Dowell to accuse Rep. Dunkin's campaign. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Dunkin has faced sharp opposition from Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and his supporters, among them Stratton and Ald. Brendan Reilly, since voicing support for Gov. Bruce Rauner. Last month, the Sun-Times reported that Reilly's 42nd Ward Democratic Organization sent out mailers calling Dunkin a "deadbeat dad" and accusing him of “violent and menacing criminal conduct toward women."
Even President Obama took a crack at Dunkin during his speech last month in Springfield about bipartisanship. After saying that compromising doesn't make you a sellout to your party, he said, "Well, we'll talk later Dunkin, you just sit down."
The allegations of voter fraud are the "culmination of a lot of things," Dowell said, adding there was evidence of people being offered cigarettes to vote and doctored fliers had falsely claimed she supported Dunkin.
But the Dunkin campaign is "above board," supporters said.
"Over 100 people in the community have [worked for us]," Jackson said. "We didn't direct anybody to [pay for votes]. ... We don't need to engage in those kind of underhanded politics."
The campaign office where Rep. Ken Dunkin's opponents say people were paid to vote for him. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Stratton is "scrapping for votes," said a Dunkin campaigner who declined to give his name at the Wabash office Sunday. He thinks opponents are trying to kick up "dirt."
"Everything in the campaign office is going to be above board," he said, standing outside the building where opponents say people were paid for voting. Signs touting Dunkin were placed in the office's windows and people inside and outside the building wore orange caps with the representative's name on them.
The Board of Elections was contacted about the alleged voter fraud, said spokesman Jim Allen, and it advised the alderman's office to have the four volunteers who went undercover to contact the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State's Attorney's Office.
The volunteers filed a police report and contacted the State's Attorney's Office, Dowell said. Police could not immediately confirm a report had been filed and the State's Attorney's Office did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: