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It’s been almost two weeks since an audio recording leaked that featured a phone conversation between businessman Willie Wilson’s political consultant, Rickey Hendon, and a volunteer for community activist Ja’Mal Green’s campaign. During that conversation, Hendon allegedly bribed the volunteer, Kevin Hobby, to drop Green’s petition challenge against Wilson in the 2023 Chicago mayoral election.

This also comes just as objection filings kicked off last week, which is a standard process in which one candidate objects to the signatures of another candidate. Over the next few weeks, the Chicago Board of Elections commissioners will review all the signatures that have been opposed and decide if those signatures (or challenges) are valid. 

On Dec. 5, Wilson and Green filed petition challenges against one another; a victory by either would narrow the 11-candidate field for the mayor’s race. Wilson also filed a separate challenge against another mayoral candidate: 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer. Other candidates seek to knock off long-shot candidates Frederick Collins and Johnny Logalbo.

Chicago-based What’s the Word TV was the first media outlet to publish the full recording of the leaked audio on its Instagram page on Dec. 8. The outlet has since removed the video. However, Chicago-based blog Chicago Media Takeout’s also posted the video on its Instagram page

On Dec. 8, in response to an inquiry from The TRiiBE, Wilson’s campaign spokesperson, Richard Boykin, confirmed that it was Hendon’s voice on the recording. 

There were various opinions in the Chicago Media Takeout’s comment section ranging from: “Politics as usual in the Chi,” to no betta game anywhere than Chicago politics! Hollywood needs to stop,” and “It’s politics. What else is new” or  “This is why we have to support @jaymalgreen our future depends on it, these old-school politicians are outrageous.” 

Veteran political and media consultant Delmarie Cobb told The TRiiBE that the leaked audio recording is a bad look for both campaigns. 

Although she added that what Hendon is accused of is unethical, the situation, she said, shows that Wilson’s campaign will “stoop to any level to win” and “that it makes his [Wilson’s] campaign look desperate,” but added that it demonstrates that Green “can’t be trusted.” 

“It’s just a matter of who people think did the most wrong,” Cobb said. “So, what side is public perception going to fall down on? Is it going to fall on the side of ‘You can’t be trusted? Or you’ll do anything to win.’” 


Commenters on Chicago Media Takeout’s post mirror Cobb’s view of the situation. Some suggested that by recording the conversation, Green hurt his chances of winning the race. At the same time, some indicated that Green should not have recorded the conversation or that he should have accepted the bribe and bowed out of the race altogether. Others said that it was discouraging to see two mayoral campaigns acting in such a way. 

Most comments also showed that most Chicagoans are used to seeing elected officials and candidates behaving like Hendon or Green. To many commenters, what transpired between Hendon’s and Green’s campaigns is just the Chicago way when it comes to politics. 

Think back to Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former Illinois governor who was impeached and removed from office in 2009 following his arrest on federal corruption charges. 

Or consider current Chicago City Councilmembers Carrie Austin (34th Ward) and Ed Burke (14th Ward) as well as former 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran.

In 2021, a federal jury indicted Austin and her chief of staff on bribery charges for allegedly conspiring to receive home improvements for construction contractors that sought city assistance for a development project in her ward. 

Burke faces racketeering, bribery and extortion charges based on allegations that he used his political power to force those doing business with the city to hire his private law firm, WTTW noted. Burke’s trial is scheduled to begin in November 2023. In addition, both Austin and Burke announced that they would not be running in the 2023 municipal election after serving a combined total of 81 years. 

In 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Cochran on charges that he allegedly took money from a charitable fund that was intended to help families and children in his ward, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in prison in 2019.  

Chicago continues to be the most corrupt city in Illinois, according to a 2020 University of Illinois at Chicago study. Since 1973, 30 alderpersons have been convicted of corruption, according to Block Club Chicago.


However, what makes this case stand out among the decades-long history of elected leaders making deals behind closed doors is that the public heard the alleged bribe on audio and it was widely shared on social media platforms, said Cobb.

“It’s not unheard of people trading jobs, money [and] contracts. People trade all of those things,” Cobb explained. 

It’s a political strategy. Opponents in the race want to eliminate as many people as possible to avoid a runoff. She explained that the more candidates there are, the harder it becomes to avoid a runoff. The last two mayoral races, in 2015 and 2019, resulted in runoff elections. 

So Cobb said it’s common for some candidates to tell their opponents, “I don’t want you splitting the vote when you don’t have a chance of winning. You don’t have a chance of being the nominee. So we need you to get out. What would it take to get you out?‘”

Although it is a common practice, Cobb said that what is illegal in this case is whether or not Green’s campaign worker recorded the conversation without Hendon’s consent. 

In a Dec. 8 press release, Green’s team identified the volunteer on the call as Hobby. 

“After talking with our counsel, the video did not break the law as it was a public setting & Rickey was engaging in criminal activity. We want the proper authorities to investigate this matter further,” according to a statement from Green. 

In Illinois, it is a felony to intercept, record or transcribe any private telephone call or electronic communication unless all parties consent. 

According to Ed Mullen, a Chicago-based election attorney, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office (CCSAO) would be the agency tasked with investigating the matter further. 

“The Chicago Board of Elections doesn’t have a lot of authority,” Mullen explained. “So they’re not going to do any type of investigation into election interference. It would be either the Cook County state’s attorney’s office or the U.S. attorney.”

At publishing time, it’s unclear if Green’s team filed a complaint with the CCSAO. The CCSAO could not be reached for comment. 

Cobb said that some candidates decide to run for office for their own benefit. 

“This is a long tradition of people offering jobs, money and contracts to get out of the race. But, on the other hand, some candidates get in the race hoping to be offered those things,” she said. 

Cobb said voters should examine how candidates are moving to vet their legitimacy come election time. That means researching whether they have a campaign headquarters and an updated campaign website that includes policy and their platform. In addition, their websites should not have misspelled words or grammatical errors. Without those things, it’s clear to see who’s a serious candidate, she said. 

Candidates should also be showing up to debates and forums and seen in the community with outreach workers. 

“If somebody is running for alderman or mayor, and you don’t see them set up an office or see any contact information on their literature or out in the street with workers, then you can pretty much figure out they’re not serious,” Cobb said.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.