ICYMI: Richard Irvin Exposed for Corrupt Pay-to-Play Politics (Again)
A new WTTW report exposes Richard Irvin for yet another pay-to-play scheme in which his ex-wife and a “web of politically-connected companies and individuals” will receive up to $15 million in Aurora incentives, with the potential for millions more.
Those connected to the massive project donated $66,636 to Irvin’s mayoral campaign fund, $22,150 to the campaign of Irvin’s former law partner, and $35,000 to a PAC run by Irvin’s mayoral campaign manager.
The company’s address was also listed as the campaign office for Irvin’s mayoral bids.
Irvin has promised to “bring honest and good government back to Illinois,” but recent reports have shown that an Aurora company that donated to Irvin’s mayoral campaign received millions in city contracts, and developers that contributed received tens of millions in city incentives.
“Aurora taxpayers are on the hook for tens of millions in tax incentives to two other development companies that have donated thousands to Irvin and political funds connected to him,” a WTTW News review of public records found.
To see how hypocritical this truly is, look no further than Irvin’s megadonor Ken Griffin, who once slammed government incentives for private businesses, saying, “What is the cost of this cronyism?”
As they have on almost every key issue throughout the race, Irvin’s team dodged questions about the projects and campaign donations. But his GOP opponents got some jabs in over the pay-to-play scandal.
“Career Democrat Richard Irvin’s pay to play approach as Mayor of Aurora is one of the many red flags surrounding his campaign,” said Darren Bailey.
Jesse Sullivan said Illinoisans are “sick and tired of career politicians on both sides of the aisle who use public office to benefit themselves and their friends.” And Gary Rabine said that Irvin “turns out to be more like Mike Madigan than the reformer this state badly needs.”
Read key excerpts from the article below:
The ex-wife of Aurora Mayor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin works with a development team that stands to receive up to $15 million in Aurora city incentives, with the potential for millions more.
Crystal Rollins is listed as director of business development and strategy for JTE Real Estate Services, which says on its website it does construction management, property acquisition and development, and property management for the $128 million redevelopment of the city’s long-vacant former Copley Hospital. JTE is part of a group of companies called Fox Valley Developers that came together to land the redevelopment deal.
JTE is run by Irvin’s former mayoral campaign treasurer Michael Poulakidas. Through a spokesperson, Poulakidas said Rollins joined the company in a full-time position in mid-March and “has had no role in our Aurora-based projects.”
All the projects currently listed on JTE’s website are Aurora-based.
The web of politically-connected companies and individuals involved in the project also includes current Aurora Ald. Ron Woerman, among others.
All told, a WTTW News analysis found that the companies and individuals connected to the massive project that will transform the former Copley Hospital into a mixed-use development donated $66,636 to Irvin’s mayoral campaign fund, $22,150 to the Kane County judicial campaign of Irvin’s former private practice law partner, Brittany Pedersen, and $35,000 to a political action committee called Build R Future run by Irvin’s mayoral campaign manager Dennis Cook.
It follows a pattern of tens of millions of dollars in city contracts and development incentives flowing to companies that have donated throughout Irvin’s tenure to him, Pedersen and Build R Future.
Last week, WTTW News reported that Scientel Solutions, a telecommunications company that received $3.2 million in city contracts plus an ordinance approving a controversial tower, donated $135,000 collectively to those funds.
WTTW News also reported a developer, JH Real Estate, received more than $3 million in public aid to redevelop three vacant downtown buildings. Individuals and businesses tied to that company donated more than $74,000 to the three funds. Additionally, a developer called Windfall Properties stands to receive more than $20 million in incentives for an Asian-themed shopping mall and a riverfront housing development. That company and individuals associated with it donated $25,000 to Irvin’s mayoral campaign.
In 2018, an Aurora Beacon-News article examined how Irvin campaign donors received big city projects throughout his first year in office.
While not illegal, campaign finance reform advocates say taking donations from companies that also receive public incentives can erode constituents’ trust in government.
Irvin is currently seeking the GOP nomination for Illinois governor. He’s the hand-picked candidate of the state’s wealthiest resident, Ken Griffin, who has vowed that Irvin will clean up wasteful spending in Springfield.
Ken Griffin – who’s so far funded Irvin’s bid for governor to the tune of $20 million – has also slammed government incentives for private businesses.
In a 2013 speech to the Economic Club, Griffin called out businesses in Illinois that had taken tax breaks from the state.
“What is the cost of this cronyism?” the Chicago Tribune quoted Griffin as saying. “It is far higher than the lost tax revenue. It is the devastating loss of leadership from our business community.”
In a Daily Herald candidate forum during his 2021 reelection bid, Irvin batted away his competitors’ suggestions that taking contributions from people doing business with the city can give an appearance of “pay to play.”