Video: Vote-buying scheme in Chicago?

The local Fox affiliate in Chicago has disturbing new video about GOTV efforts in the Windy City. Is this legal?

Oh, sorry — wrong video. (Readers will certainly understand my confusion on this point.) Let’s try this again. Alderman Leslie Hairston’s office published a Facebook post in which they asked voters to use their voting receipt to enter into a lottery with lots of fun prizes, such as gift cards to any number of retail stores and restaurants, and even Visa cash cards of up to $100. The Fox affiliate printed out the post and had an attorney look at it, who declared it entirely illegal and a possible Class IV felony. Dane Placko went to the Fifth Ward office to enter the lottery, later catching up with Hairston at city hall, where hilarity ensued:

FOX 32 News Chicago

FOX 32’s Dane Placko: “You offered gift cards for people who came in with a voting slip.”

Ald. Leslie Hairston: “Well, that is not exactly it.”

Dane: “How am I wrong?”

Hairston: “The post is now gone.”

Dane: “Well the post was up for some time.”

Hairston: “And now it’s gone.”

Indeed, the raffle post had disappeared from Hairston’s Facebook page by early afternoon.

Dane: “Do you understand why people became alarmed about this?”

Hairston: “When we found out we took it down.”

When we found out? Do staffers in the Fifth Ward routinely go out and buy gift cards amounting to hundreds or thousands of dollars without the approval of the Alderman? It’s certainly possible that a low-level staffer could have written a Facebook post, but not that they could have grazed through Chicago’s retail stores and collected a boatload of gift cards without having someone senior signing off on the project.

There’s another point here that Fox misses, too. This didn’t take place in a campaign headquarters, but in a city official’s office. Do the laws in Illinois allow for blatant GOTV projects taking place in the offices of elected officials? If so (and it wouldn’t surprise anyone much if they do), perhaps that’s one area that reformers in Illinois may want to consider.

On the other hand, the news isn’t all bad. At least it required the voter entering the raffle to be alive, which is an improvement over Chicago’s usual voting standards.