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A takeover bid

Monday, Dec 9, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

By now, it should be self evident that Bruce Rauner has locked up pretty much all the big money in the Republican primary race for governor. Last week’s pension reform vote provides even more evidence.

Rauner has built an impenetrable fortress of high-dollar campaign contributors. Ron Gidwitz, long known in GOP circles for being the gateway to bigtime cash from the wealthy, has fully joined in, as has the richest man in Illinois Ken Griffin.

Gidwitz was with Sen. Kirk Dillard in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, but Gidwitz and Rauner have sucked up so many dollars - including over $250,000 from campaign fundraising committee member Griffin and lots more from Griffin’s friends - that Dillard hasn’t been able to raise any cash from rich people he’s known for years, even decades. Dillard’s financial predicament has become so desperate that he voted against last week’s pension reform bill in the obvious hope that he can now raise some dough from public employee unions.

Dillard’s vote is even more bizarre when you realize that he voted against a union-negotiated pension bill back in May and twice voted in favor of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s pension reform bill in May and June. He really had no choice last week. It was sink or swim time. Whether a gubernatorial candidate can win a 2014 Republican primary with union backing remains to be seen, but it appears highly unlikely from this vantage point. If Dillard does win any public worker union endorsements, Rauner can then whack him with a “pay to play” charge and beat him over the head for taking “big government union boss” dollars.

The same goes for Treasurer Dan Rutherford. The treasurer isn’t facing a gubernatorial campaign cash crisis like Dillard, but he hasn’t been able to raise the big bucks to compete with Rauner, who is reporting new six figure contributions almost every day. Rutherford said not long ago that a pension reform bill should be passed so that its constitutionality could be litigated in the courts. Last week, Rutherford sided with the unions and said that he opposed the bill because he believed it to be unconstitutional.

For three solid years, state Rep. Tom Cross constantly insisted to his caucus that pension reform absolutely had to be passed, even though the majority of his members sided with the unions. That split eventually became so bitterly intense that Cross could no longer effectively continue as House Republican Leader.

Yet, when push came to shove, Cross voted “No.”


Well, he could’ve gone for the easy newspaper endorsements and the “regular” Statehouse money, but Cross knows that his best fundraising year as House GOP Leader came in 2010 - when Ken Griffin and his independently wealthy wife Ann contributed huge dollars to his cause and helped him raise even more money from their super-rich friends.

A “Yes” vote could’ve meant no Griffin cash for Cross (Griffin penned a recent Chicago Tribune op-ed slamming the pension bill with Rauner campaign talking points and his wife reportedly made several phone calls to House Republicans last week). So, Cross went with the money.

US Sen. Mark Kirk has been courting the Griffin’s and their bank accounts for several years. One of Kirk’s top political guys is now working for Rauner. So, in retrospect, Sen. Kirk’s aggressive statement opposing the pension bill last week should’ve been no surprise. But it sure as heck freaked out a lot of legislative Republicans, particularly in the House. Twenty-two House Republicans voted for Speaker Madigan’s pension bill in May, but just 15 voted for a similar bill last week that had been negotiated by their own newly elected Leader, Rep. Jim Durkin. Sen. Kirk’s opposition was crucial to that precipitous decline.

Speaker Madigan claimed last week that Rauner had made a “political mistake” when he tried and failed to “blow up” the process and kill the pension bill.

Governmentally, Rauner’s behavior was appalling. It showed that he would be a needlessly confrontational and even irresponsible governor. But this was no political loss. Instead, it officially heralded a new era in GOP politics.

Ken Griffin told the Tribune last year that the ultra wealthy “actually have an insufficient influence” on politics. And now, Griffin, Rauner and the rest of the ultra-wealthy are making a big play to take over the party and then the governor’s mansion. Everybody else had better pay attention.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ghost - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 9:35 am:

    Rauner wants unregulated financial markets, but wants to regualte the unions and limit what they can achieve. Are these not hypocritical goals? The union is just another private company that seeks to be successful.

    if we think we need to limit private buisness that works with the State, then lets limit what investment handlers (lawyers, bankers etc) can charge for handling public pension funds. it seems the height of huberism for people who have gotten rich handling public bond sales, investments, handling private retirment accounts etc in a loosely regualted area with huge lavish fees to complain that a company is taking too much of their profit. The unions make less then Rauner and the other folks who all want the big dollars for handling public bonds and investments; yet those same uber wealthy infividuals want to keep their fees uncapped so they can earn hundreds of thousands to millions of the State, while making sure the States employees can not do as well as them and that the unions can not do well.

  2. - William j Kelly - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 9:48 am:

    come on ghost, if history has taught us anything it is that it is always best to put ALL the money and ALL the power in the hands of two or maybe three people at most!

  3. - iThink - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 9:59 am:

    Well done Rich.

    ==the ultra wealthy “actually have an insufficient influence” on politics===

    Boggles the mind. What world does this guy live in?

  4. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:00 am:

    When has Sen. Mark Kirk cared about state government in Illinois except as a club to beat up Democrats?

  5. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:01 am:

    Bruce Rauner and his fat cat contributors want Illinois to be governed like Indiana (Texas, if they could get away with it).

    If the millionaires want to live in states governed like Indiana (or Texas), may I suggest they move?

  6. - Wensicia - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:03 am:

    “…the ultra wealthy “actually have an insufficient influence” on politics.”

    The solution, take over the party and buy the top office in the state.

  7. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    Does the GOP want Illinois voters to have the choice: who is looking out for your interests? Pat Quinn or Ken Griffin & the 1%ers?

    If you like how they crashed the economic system in 2008, you’re gonna love how they run Illinois government!

    If the GOP is serious about winning, they’ll nominate Rutherford.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:13 am:

    This weekend I became Dennis Green in my thinking of Bruce Rauner.

    Bruce is, who he says he is.

    What does that mean? Bruce Rauner made no qualms about donating to Rahm or Rich Daley or Ed Rendell. Bruce Rauner was Advocating for himself, or his ends, because Bruce Rauner… has the means.

    The difference between Rod’s PAC and Rauner’s is something also that falls into the Denny Green lingo. Rod was trying to figure out, in all his PAC-ness, the cost. Bruce Rauner doesn’t worry about the cost, not one bit.

    “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.”

    Rod asked, never got to use the monies effectively, Bruce Rauner doesn’t need to worry about the cost, Rauner can afford the costs, and has proven, that money is no object to the “Nth” degree.

    Bruce Rauner is the Denny Green thought also becuase, his “bought” Caucuses in both chambers could very well have Democrats and Republicans. That is the Bruce Rauner “calling card”; Democrat, Republican, …blue or red … they all like Green.

    Bruce Rauner is who we thought he was as well. If you have a price, Rauner will pay it, but then you are “bought”, and Rauner will expect a return on his investment. If Bruce Rauner wasn’t running agaist that premise, I would probably give Rauner a much larger berth to dock that yacht, but you can’t “be” against exactly what you hope this PAC will “advocate. That too is the hypocricy that makes Rauner who we think he is, albeit unabashedly.

    I said I had no problem, on the one side, seeing this as a “loyaly” move, and it can be commendable. The very specific difference is that Bruce Rauner makes no qualms supporting Democrats or Republicans, but they better be “Rauners”.

    I can see the 1990s “John Kass” having a field day if this all went sour. We would be reading about, “John Smith (”R”auner - Chicago)”. The John Kass of the late 1990s would be tearing into a man who plans on buying Caucuses, and guessing the price of the legislature …all the while running against the idea of “career politicians” and “insiders.”

    You can not run a PAC that has Politcal Ambiguity that has the only common thread of checks that start “Pay to the Order of” and consider that something of a statement of being an outsider, and run a campaign in complete contrast of that.


    Tom Cross and Mark Kirk, I left them alone, and as Rich has pointed out, Ken Griffin and the monies of those feeling a greater need to be in the process, are driving the bus more than Cross flipping on his former Caucus, or more than Sen. Kirk going against the GA GOP.

    Ken Griffin, his wife, the Rauners… they are all part and parcel of a new ILGOP; To be a part of it, there are two Camps; Either see that money is no object, but a means to stay relevent in the ILGOP, or treat money as though it means very little in vast scheme of your life, as you continue to donate for your own greater good.

    Slytherins should be very scared. Reagan Rule Republicans should fear the final dismantling of the ILGOP. The Griffins and the Rauners are not asking “what does it cost”, Slytherins and RRRs, they are just paying and buying, and its going to keep going, no matter the “D” or “R” after the name anymore.

    Bruce Rauner is. who he says he is, and guess what, that might be the only thing honest about his run for Governor so far, and it should scare us all.

    Mr. Potter has nothing on Bruce Rauner, but who can be the George Bailey to stop this in My Party?

    Where is Clarence? When Nick is “giving out wings”, is that now buying members of the GA or owning the ILGOP? This is a movie I have yet to see, but I fear the ending is not one I will like.

  9. - iThink - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    ==If the GOP is serious about winning, they’ll nominate Rutherford. ==

    Fixed it for you:
    If the GOP is serious about running the government, they’ll nominate Rutherford.

    I have no doubt that Rauner and the folks he represents (mostly himself from the looks of it)would be a terrible choice for this state. But low information voters are scary and this guys has limitless pockets to get himself out there. When you add in the fact that union money and participation may be a at low this run around for Quinn, I don’t count out any R that runs against Quinn.

  10. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    It is really hard to understand how getting clobbered when trying to kill a bill is a “win”, but hey let play along.
    Let’s watch FarmerBrucey try to convince anyone he just a new Blagoof with thinner hard, Carharts and a cheap watch — BTW who even has a watch anyone?
    Let’s watch the cash pore into Billboard “30 Votes” Cross coffers. Wonder if he gets to keep unspent sums?
    Let’s watch the ReBooters duel with each other over pension reform
    Let’s watch CommandoMakeItUp bask in his new found interest in IL politics….should this be viewed as a signal for a reelect being sent to Congressman Schock?

  11. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:49 am:

    Did Ms/Mr OW mean Denny Crane?

  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    I noticed today that Rauner has a new web ad in which he wants to “hammer down” Springfield (read public employees).

    That joins his other promises to “shake up” and “bulldoze.” I’m getting the feeling he and the others in the Billionaire Boys Club don’t like public employees.

    They think last week’s pension legislation was not harsh enough.

    Not harsh enough — even though the Sun-Times likened it to a kick in the teeth while the Tribbies approvingly equated it with getting your testicular virility clipped.

    If public employees can’t see what’s coming with this guy, they’re blind. They don’t want to just take your money, they want to destroy public employee unions.

    That way, they can avoid any talk of a progressive personal income tax, while cashing in on taxpayer funded charter schools and other privatization efforts.

    In short, they’re after your jobs. Vote accordingly.

  13. - Walter Mitty - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:54 am:

    - Walter Mitty - Wednesday, Nov 27, 13 @ 1:29 pm:

    I suppose it will all be litigated.So technically it won’t be off the table…I think at least there is something… Is it not curious that it’s what Rauner thinks? I think Dennis Green comes to mind…. Remember when….

  14. - Walter Mitty - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:56 am:

    This is the greatest day of my life. I am “pretending” the future Governor of Illinois, Oswego Willy, was somehow persuaded by me!! Please, can I be appointed the assistant to the assistant manager of the movie theater when we get you elected?

  15. - walkinfool - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:58 am:

    So Dillard, and Rutherford went for the union money and support with their “no”, while Kirk and Cross went for the super-rich-401K-or-bust money, with their “no.”


    It was the compromisers and centrists for the bill, and those appealing for money and support from the edges against.

  16. - Will - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    There are other considerations than union money. Government is the top employer in Illinois. Many state workers and retirees are Republican primary voters hired under Thompson/Edgar/Ryan. Many teachers are Republican primary voters. All the campaign spending and newspaper editorials in the world aren’t going to make them forget who attacked their livelihood. Cutting public pensions is a losing issue in statewide elections. Just look at the number of counties where government is the top employer.

    Rauner created a ceiling for himself that no amount of spending will break. Rutherford just reinforced the fact that he’s the Republican’s best chance at electing a Governor. Democratic public employees are ready to vote for him.

  17. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 11:01 am:

    “actually have an insufficient influence”

    I guess the last 30 years and the 2010 midterms didn’t happen in America, and neither did the Norquist people, Heritage Action or Americans for Prosperity wield any power lately. People like Griffin and Rauner want to push out unions so that they can control the funding and message, and thus control government. What other large, organized groups can raise money to combat these people’s ideas? In the 2012 Wisconsin governor recall race, Walker outraised the unions to the tune of something like seven-to-one.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, times seven.

  18. - ZC - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 11:04 am:

    >> US Sen. Mark Kirk has been courting the Griffin’s and their bank accounts for several years.

    Was that grocer’s apostrophe courtesy of the Sun-Times copywriters? Or do you see this as the wave of the future? I’ve just about given up on its vs it’s, but so far I’ve drawn what may be a Maginot line on this one.

  19. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 11:13 am:

    ===- Walter Mitty - Wednesday, Nov 27, 13 @ 1:29 pm ===

    I read the comments here, - Walter Mitty -, you would be surprised. Very often, Posts make me think to look at things in a new light. I am no different than anyone, and I remember your “association”, and this weekened, after this PAC business, I revisted that thought again.

    My Administration will be the first that I could remember that the Governor readily admits everyone in “it”, is smarter than he/she.

  20. - Think About It - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 11:46 am:

    The best thing that ever happened to Mark Kirk was Dick Durbin. Now the best thing that has happened to Mark Kirk is Bruce Rauner. That is why he has so many of his staff working with Rauner. He needs his $$$ to win the next election. Money follows money. What ever happened to people being principled. Bruce has continuously put Illinois politics to a new level of bad. He isn’t going to break the backs of the unions, he’s taking the GOP name and putting into another stratosphere of hate.

  21. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 11:48 am:

    - CircularFiringSquad -,

    I thought I might have sounded more like Dennis Hopper in “Apocolypse Now” …

  22. - Not me - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    If Rauner’s position was cynical or “appalling” as Rich called, then so isn’t Cross’s vote equally disgusting?

  23. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 2:05 pm:


    Unfortunately I think your analysis is probably correct and it is amazingly shameful for all concerned. Afterall, the crime of bribery is viewed as equally wrong for both the briber (in this equation Rauner/Griffin) and the bribee - everyone who made their decisions in some meaningful measure because of the cash.

    Sure, it’s classically Illinois - but it’s at least as noteworthy that you write a column like this, and people conduct themselves this way, and nobody blinks. BLECH.

  24. - Veritas - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 2:20 pm:

    Let me get this right: Dillard and Rauner both oppose the bill, but Dillard did so to court union support and Rauner opposed it because he doesn’t like the unions??

    Having NINE residences is not a symbol of success - it is a symbol of gross indulgence. It won’t play with the voters.

  25. - Whalewatcher - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 2:28 pm:

    Hey anyone hear that Rep. arroyos Petitions are in pretty bad shape… So 400 signatures outside district?? GO ENID- Martinez- Gonzalez….if not, look out she is for real!!!

  26. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 2:35 pm:

    - Whalewatcher -,

    Either they are bad or they are not, can’t be a “little” bad.

    ===….if not, look out she is for real!!!====

    What does that mean? At least make a Drive-By funny, not pathetically comical.

  27. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 2:51 pm:

    I enjoyed the column! I like the separation of Rauner’s actions through the lens of political vs. governmental.

    “Governmentally, Rauner’s behavior was appalling… But this was no political loss.”

  28. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Dec 9, 13 @ 7:49 pm:

    Seems like only yesterday the GOPers were “oh my godding” it over the horrible role campaign cash plays in legislative politics. Perhaps they should re-read their 2009 talking points.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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