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The Rauner oppo dump begins

Monday, Mar 11, 2013

* Greg Hinz has a story which shows some dots that may connect potential Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner to admitted felon Stu Levine, who helped bring down Bill Cellini, Ed Vrdolyak and Tony Rezko

In testimony during the 2008 trial of Blagojevich pal Tony Rezko, Mr. Levine and others said Mr. Levine had had a $25,000-a-month contract “consulting” for CompBenefits Corp., an Atlanta-based dental and vision benefits company once known as CompDent. According to its website, CompBenefits at the time of Mr. Levine’s contract principally was owned by four private-equity firms, including GTCR LLC. Mr. Rauner, a founder of GTCR, is the “R” in the acronym.

Mr. Levine said his job was to get work for CompBenefits through whatever means were needed, including payoffs. A 2005 Sun-Times article says the firm then held contracts covering tens of thousands of workers at Chicago Public Schools and with the state.

Mr. Levine testified that he’d paid a bribe to obtain the CPS work, worked with insiders Bill Cellini and Ed Vrdolyak on other deals (both men later were convicted in unrelated federal cases) and plotted with Mr. Rezko to get work with Cook County via Orlando Jones, a key insider who later committed suicide.

Messrs. Levine and Rezko eventually went to prison on other matters, and prosecutors never took any action on CompBenefits. Perhaps that’s because they could not corroborate Mr. Levine’s testimony, or perhaps it’s because some major figures were going to prison anyway. I don’t know. Neither do I know whether Mr. Rauner or GTCR knew the details of what the firm was up to prior to the federal probe.

But I do know that Mr. Rauner, GTCR and Stu Levine had another interaction. That came in 2003, when the board of the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System—on which Mr. Levine served—first tabled and then approved GTCR’s bid to get a $50 million investment from the giant pension fund.

According to a Sun-Times account, the bid stalled at the board’s February 2003 meeting after Mr. Levine objected but then was zipped through in May, when Mr. Rauner attended the board session. Now-retired TRS Executive Director Jon Bauman corroborates the gist of the newspaper report. He adds that he believes the February flop mostly was because of a bad presentation by GTCR but also says he does not know the particulars of Mr. Levine’s motives.

* From that 2005 Sun-Times story about the federal subpoenas of CompBenefits-related records

TRS had already given GTCR at least $70 million to invest when GTCR made a new $50 million pitch in February 2003, said TRS executive director Jon Bauman.

GTCR sent only one representative, “which is usually not a good idea [because] you don’t have somebody to help you out if you get in trouble. He got in trouble,” Bauman said.

Levine questioned the representative so aggressively that, rather than approving the deal, the board of trustees decided to table it, Bauman said.

Three months later, in May 2003, three GTCR representatives showed up, including partner Bruce Rauner. This time around, Levine was much more low-key. In fact, Bauman said, he couldn’t recall Levine asking any questions, and Levine and other board members approved the $50 million deal with GTCR.

Herron wouldn’t disclose the timing of Levine’s work for CompBenefits, but Bauman said if that work overlapped with Levine’s TRS service, TRS board members would have wanted to know about it at the time of Levine’s GTCR vote.

The timing is an issue here. If Levine got that CompBenefits gig after the first unsuccessful TRS vote and before the second vote, then there’s a very serious problem. If not, then it’s not as bad. Neither article has that info, and I wasn’t able to find it online.

But stay tuned. There’s more oppo coming.

* Illinois Review took a look at Rauner’s 2002 campaign contributions

Rauner’s state contributions are here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Keep Calm and Carry On - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:08 am:

    And Schock apparently wakes from his slumber.

    Something more than angry Facebook posts. How refreshing.

  2. - more of same - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:14 am:

    I am Schocked that anyone with any ties (let alone employ) Stu Levine could think about running for Governor, especially if they care about the State’s reputation

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:16 am:

    If an of these other nominees plan on taking out Rauner, we need to see more of this, with more of a narrative, and be able to define Rauner out of the gate with solid Oppo pointing and in concert with that narrative.

    Everyone gave Rauner his “Day”, announcing his “committee” and such … no “go get ‘em.”

    Rauner’s 1st test. If he personally can handle this, and as a campaign, handle the backlash some of this first drop brings, then Rauner will shoe “something” to people.

    Rauner’s response, both personally and campaign-wise, will be very telling and I for one am interested in how this will be handled/discussed/answerd by them both.

  4. - Boone Logan Square - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:24 am:

    Yeah. Far be it from me to agree with the Illinois Review crowd, but they are pursuing the angle I would take if I ran oppo against Rauner in the primary. The Levine gambit may work, or it may have the traction with the public that Rezko selling land to Obama did. The Rauner-Emanuel relationship is pretty solid, pretty public, and potentially fruitful for a GOP electorate.

    Rauner’s ties to Emanuel might help in a general election, but he has to make it out of the primary first.

  5. - Anonymour - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:24 am:

    Thanks for the link to the state contributions. That is an awesome list. An employer of Levine, and a big conributor to George Ryan and Rich Daley. That goes well with political independence.

  6. - WhoKnew - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:30 am:

    Illinois, some of the worse Politics money can buy!

  7. - Shore - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:33 am:

    the moment he has his first tv debate, he’s done because he can’t think on his feet and he’s utterly dry and boring. This is andy mckenna 2.0 only mckenna had more of a party record.

    the oppo is nice and especially awful in a republican party that now considers a lot of folks who are pro-life, pro 2nd amendment and have strong party backgrounds to be RINOs.

  8. - Cincinnatus - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:38 am:

    Remember last week when Rauner said he wasn’t and insider?

  9. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:42 am:

    I wonder why good folks don’t run for office and propose solid solutions to our state’s legacies of mismanagement, corruption, bankruptcies, massive incompetence, and stupidities?

    Oh yeah, politics prevents that from happening.

    I’m not a Rauner supporter, but I am an Illinois citizen interested in good government. This kind of politics is little more than ugly rumor mongering by paid hatchet men disinterested in anything other than preventing my choices at the polls by slandering and bullying.

    Some of you guys playing this game need to realize there are bigger problems in this state other than someone else’s guys getting into office. Oppositional research is 90% trash strewn across our media serving no one’s benefits except for the paychecks they receive. They help ruin politics for nearly everyone.

  10. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:44 am:

    He sure was sweet on Claypool back in the day, to the tune of $250K.

    And you must really be loaded if you can give $50K to Tony Peraica without gagging.

    I had no idea there was a Southern Illinois Republican Caucus. I imagine $25K is a big contribution to them.

  11. - Liberty_First - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 9:55 am:

    Political chump change.

  12. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:07 am:

    This is not called a “dump” for nothing - it describes the actual value to Illinoisans.

  13. - Ray Midge - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:08 am:

    I agree with Shore. Rauner will go the way of so many other zillionaire self-funded candidates in Illinois. He’ll embarrass himself. The ILGOP dysfunction will continue. Truly, they are the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

  14. - BDuty6 - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    Having now heard Rauner speak at a Lincoln Day Dinner, I can say that I’m unimpressed. The guy has his talking points down, but when pressed on an issue I don’t think he’ll hold up.

    His staffer and I spoke and he indicated that Rauner was the only guy running who would have the money to take on Lisa Madigan. However, if you find me a candidate who would be willing to spend millions of their own money to take on Lisa Madigan in Illinois, I’ll show you a fool. Most millionaires don’t become millionaires by being foolish…

  15. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:28 am:

    At Ray: maybe the Rauners, Forbes, and Blair Hulls are having fun making the others look a little better.

  16. - Adam Smith - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:47 am:

    I love this “outsider” angle from Rauner. Some expensive DC consultants are telling him it “tests well” to call yourself and outsider. Only problem is that the press and public in Illinois know a consumate insider when they see one.

    Remember how McKenna tried to be an outsider? Worked out well…

  17. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    VMan, who are these “good people” you speak of? Are they in hiding, for fear of opposition research?

    Grow up, dude. Opposition research and negative attacks have been around since Alexander Hamilton started planting stories about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.

    Have any of the “good people” run for office since then?

    Ignorance may be blissful to some, but it’s not the way to elect candidates.

  18. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 12:56 pm:

    There was once a time when oppositional research was against candidates like you described, and we ALL KNOW - and today’s oppositional research against people considering a candidacy, preventing GOOD people from considering public office.

    Like I really needed to clarify that to anyone else but you. Geez.

  19. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 1:10 pm:

    ===preventing GOOD people from considering public office===

    Not to interfere in a perfectly good comment war, but without proper vetting, how do we know who the GOOD people are? Isn’t that the point of op research? Vetting? It’s usually better to find out about these skeletons before the election. That helps cut down on buyer’s remorse and the Scott Lee Cohen/Jack Ryan dilemmas faced by the parties recently.

    But I suppose we could just take your word for it Vman. Or the candidate’s word for it. Me personally, I like to know if someone running for governor has some old history with Stuart Levine for example. Call me goofy, but I don’t think a lot of candidates with that kind of history put it in their bio.

  20. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    VMan, you make no sense, but since you speak for the GOOD people I guess you don’t have to.

    If you don’t know the people running, how do you know whether or not they’re one of your GOOD people unless they undergo some scrutiny — even, gasp, from opponents? Should we just check in with you, first?

    If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

  21. - shore - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 1:20 pm:

    Rauner is a North Shore republican which I am inclined to like. But he doesn’t offer anything other than a potentially good run at young mr schock and someone to tell dillard/brady/rutherford how little the rest of the world thinks of springfield republicans and the sorry charade they’ve run for 15 years.

    that jac pa group is like a more moderate version of the jan schakowsky operation and I really can’t imagine todays gop with joe walsh, redstate, ect looking at this guy and not lighting him on fire when they’ve already incinerated so many republicans who haven’t given to groups like that.

  22. - walkinfool - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 1:42 pm:

    McKenna-Murphy morphs to Rauner-Murphy?

    Matt’s a good spokesman, partners with money, and knows campaigning.

  23. - anon sequitor - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 2:02 pm:

    Conspiracy theories:

    1. Schock finally woke up and decided to play politics as a contact sport.


    2. Some Republican consultants who haven’t yet been hired by the Rauner gravy train take a page out of Levine’s playbook on getting a Rauner contract and drop some obvious and easy to find oppo research/criticism of Rauner in order to get leverage on a fat contract.

    Schock ain’t smart enough for #1, so I’m going with #2.

  24. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 2:06 pm:

    anon sequitor, I was told this Levine story by a guy affiliated with a different GOP personship not long ago. But it was prefaced with “You absolutely can’t use this,” so I didn’t. I figured they had already promised to give it to somebody else.

  25. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 2:21 pm:

    VMan, and a good day to you, sir! Say hello to the good people for me.

  26. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 3:07 pm:

    One vote for #2 here.

  27. - qcexaminer - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 3:41 pm:

    This is the problem when private sector people try to run against career politicians. (i.e. Mitt Romney, who Obama declared killed a woman with cancer—or something)

    Most businesses/corporations hedge their bets and donate to both parties, unlike Big Labor that puts all its $$$$ in Democrats and hope they stay bought.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with Rauner donating to Democrats—in Illinois, this is just good business.

    I noticed the link was all sleazy with guilt by association, which is par for the course for the press. I have no idea about Rauner myself, and unless the RICO Clerk has purged my name, I won’t be voting for Illinois governor (OK, just joking), but come on people, aren’t you at least a little interested in WHO is releasing this oppo research?

  28. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 3:51 pm:

    Oh boy–this could be and turn REAL ugly. Please, oh wealthy One, please spare us the details, and before all of us start worrying in theory about what a mess yet aNOTHer corrupt Governor could get himself into while humiliating all us poor, natives of Illinois, just do all of us a favor, BR,(’cuz YOU know what’s REALLY gone on here), and get out, and gracefully please, now…!

  29. - county chairman - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 8:27 pm:

    mr r in quincy said willing to listen and no politician apparently he has no problem doing business with people who are criminals and drug abusers nice what a joke

  30. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:43 pm:

    –McKenna-Murphy morphs to Rauner-Murphy?

    Matt’s a good spokesman, partners with money, and knows campaigning–

    And got beat by Jason Plummer,

    For crying out loud, when are guys going to get it?

    I wanted to give up on the GOP when they tossed Lugar for a moron, but here goes, on your branding problem:

    You don’t like the people. You really hate a good chunk of the people. You hate some of the people so much that you turn off a lot of the people.

    Lincoln could tell you how that would go.


    It’s difficult

  31. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 11, 13 @ 10:58 pm:

    Forgive me, computer glitch.

    But to the point, the -GOP in Illinois are cry-baby victims.

    You don’t win because you disrespect and are obviously contemptuous of the majority of citizens.

    Put it this way, GOP– a back-bench state senator from the South Side has been elected president, twice. Pat Quinn, on his own, was elected governor.

    If you can’t see that and see some changes are due, you’re clueless.

    But I’m still a Lugar guy. A great man who disarmed much of the old Soviet Union.

  32. - county chairman - Tuesday, Mar 12, 13 @ 6:22 am:

    schocks gremlins at work

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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