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Tribune headline: “Records cast doubt on any strong link between GOP candidate, convicted power broker”

Friday, Jan 31, 2014

* Tribune reporters took a look at Bruce Rauner’s alleged ties to convicted influence peddler Stu Levine. They came up with pretty much nothing. Some highlights

But a closer look at the available details suggests any such connection is tenuous at best, starting with this fact: Records show Rauner’s firm, GTCR Golder Rauner, took its ownership stake in CompDent in 1999 — three years after CompDent’s arrangement with Levine was inked. […]

But Rauner said he had no idea at the time that Levine had any connection to CompDent, which by then had changed its name to CompBenefits.

“The emphatic answer is absolutely not — I did not,” Rauner told the Tribune, adding that he knew nothing about Levine until two years later when criminal allegations against him surfaced in news reports.

Rauner said he made no attempt to understand who the TRS board members were because they served largely as rubber stamps for recommendations made by staffers at the pension agency. “They’re sitting behind these big desks half asleep,” Rauner said. […]

Rauner said he has been asked how he could not know about Levine given the lucrative contract he held with a GTCR subsidiary. He said GTCR at the time financed about 400 companies and had an ownership interest in 60 or 70 of them. He sat on the board of eight or nine, and he was not on the CompBenefits board. He said among all the companies there were probably 350 executives at Levine’s pay level.

“I would probably know 10 percent of those, maybe,” he said.

* I, too, have checked into this a bit and came up with no hard evidence as of yet. There’s smoke, but no hard evidence of a raging fire.

So, on the one hand, it’s good to see the Tribune not jumping to wild conclusions about a politician, as they’ve so often done with others. They almost never take a candidate’s word for anything.

Maybe that’s a new trend.

* On the other hand, it’s been clear for a long time that Stu Levine was no “rubber stamp” for TRS board staff on at least some issues where he had an, um, interest. And nobody at Rauner’s tightly managed company knew they just happened to have a TRS board member on the payroll somewhere at a time when that same guy was giving them trouble over a TRS investment pitch?

So, let’s just hope, for the Tribune’s sake, that this doesn’t turn into another 1998. In the weeks leading up to that November election, stories were raging in other news outlets about George Ryan’s license for bribes scandal. The Tribune ran a front page story about how difficult it was for truckers to get a commercial drivers license.

* But, again, I haven’t found any fire, either, and I’m still not convinced this is truly a major scandal. So far, it’s all political speculation. I’ve tried to reach out to Levine’s attorney for a while now with no success. I doubt the convict will talk, however. Why open up a whole new can of worms for himself?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


35 Comments
  1. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:24 am:

    So, if Rauner is lying about any of this, he’s done, right?

    The Trib will brand him a liar and say he is unfit for public office, right?

    Or will the Trib put the best possible spin on Rauner’s new version of what happened?

    It kinda makes a difference if the Trib’s angle is to get to the truth or to put their preferred Republican in the Governor’s mansion.


  2. - DuPage - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:30 am:

    It seems the Trib. is going easy on him. Maybe because he is their favored candidate?


  3. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:34 am:

    Remember, the Trib absolutely buried the fact that Henry Hyde was a director at Clyde Savings & Loan when the institution failed during the S&L crisis.

    Hyde made and seconded motions that were central to the S&L failings.

    Hyde was ranking member of the banking committee when the bad investments were made.

    And Hyde was the only director at Clyde that DOJ didn’t seek a guilty plea from. Preferential treatment of a member of Congress was strongly suspected.

    The Trib covered-up the whole story, minus Eric Zorn writing columns about it.

    Now, contrast that to how the Trib covered the failure of Broadway and Alexi Giannoulias.

    Broadway made investment decisions that didn’t work, but they weren’t criminal. Also, 600+ banks failed before Broadway. Alexi Giannoulias was a loan officer at the bank, not in senior leadership.

    But when Mark Kirk and the GOP wanted the Trib to call Giannoulias a failed mob banker, the Trib would do that. The Trib’s articles quoted Republican appointees as neutral sources w/o IDing them as GOP activists.

    Forgive me, but the Tribune is no more reliable on this stuff than reading a press release from the GOP.

    I’m glad Rich is digging into this. Maybe it’s nothing.

    But it’s pretty clear in how Rauner talks about politics, he sees campaign contributions as quid pro quo.

    Rauner got rich handling public money. Rauner made some huge contributions that were not motivated by ideology or partisanship. Raunder believes big contributions are made to get something.

    It’s not hard to connect the dots with Rauner, politics and money.

    George Ryan is the right parallel.

    If the money ended-up in the boss’ pocket, you can infer the boss was in on the misconduct.


  4. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:35 am:

    ==Rauner’s tightly managed company==

    I guess this is the crux for me. If he tightly manages his companies, yet he goes before the TRS board not knowing it includes one of his more well compensated employees, how good of a manager is he really? He says he will “shake up Springfield” by managing the state like he managed his businesses. The folks I know in Springfield would know who was on the Board they were presenting to and they would certainly know if they were presenting in front of one of their employees.

    Bottom line, if he knew Stu, its a big ethical problem. If he did not know who Stu was, it calls into question his management claims.


  5. - Upon Further Review - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    Last November, Alderman Ed Burke and I both attended a horse racing event at Hawthorne Park Race Track. We were in the same approximate area, but did not speak to each other. I do not know him and he does not know me. The room was crowded and there was one service bar.

    It is quite possible that Rauner is telling the truth. I am not a fan of Rauner, but his version could be completely correct. Unless his opponents can produce something more, this Stuart Levine story is about finished. His ties to Rahm Emanuel are much more obvious.


  6. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:39 am:

    “I sit on too many corporate boards to be held accountable for any one corporate board” is the type of flimflam that’s ruining our society.

    Corporations allow people to perpetrate criminal acts and hide behind a “limited liability” charter.

    The problem with society isn’t that poor people perpetrated some secret conspiracy to not pay their bills.

    The problem is that people in power–people like Bruce Rauner–take unethical and illegal actions that are profitable on a short-term basis. Then when the schemes fall apart these financial manipulators use corporate charters and political connections to keep themselves from being held accountable.


  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:39 am:

    ===We were in the same approximate area, but did not speak to each other.===

    There are two big problems with your analogy.

    1) I assume Burke does not work for a company you own.

    2) You were not testifying in front of Burke after he’d previously helped stall your company’s request.


  8. - AFSCME Steward - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:39 am:

    If this were the only question about Rauner’s past dealings it might just go away without evidence. However, there is a long history of dubious associations by Mr. Rauner. This won’t go away easily.

    “But, again, I haven’t found any fire, either, and I’m still not convinced this is truly a major scandal. So far, it’s all political speculation.”


  9. - Meanderthal - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:43 am:

    This is essentially what I said the other day here.


  10. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:46 am:

    Didn’t Stu Levine get a pay increase?

    How were pay increases for executives at that level approved?


  11. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:47 am:

    This was not one of the big issues with me, because I didn’t want to cast aspersions on Rauner without the evidence.

    My big issues with Rauner is that he is attacking defined pensions and union leaders after he or his firm profited immensely off of them. My other issue with Rauner is that he or his firm were involved in the nursing homes that were so poorly run that people suffered and died in them. Some of the massive lawsuits can’t even be paid out due to bankruptcy proceedings. It appears that GTCR profited regardless of what happened to people in nursing homes and may be shielded from liability. Is this a business model that we should praise and try to emulate? How much money did Rauner and/or his firms make from Medicare and Medicaid?

    What bothers me is that Mr. Rauner was profiting immensely at the government trough, but teachers and other public employees and their leaders are the problem and should be scapegoated.

    Plus, defined contribution plans may not help a large percentage of retirees, because the workers can’t or won’t invest much money into them. Retirees paying more into their retirement funds also potentially hurts the economy, with less disposable income to spend for consumer goods.


  12. - walker - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:48 am:

    Rauner has the typical venture capitalist disdain for corporate board members.

    How is corporate governance supposed to function, again?

    It usually doesn’t.


  13. - The Captain - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:50 am:

    Every time the Trib publishes the Republicans should file an in-kind contribution notice.


  14. - Budget Watcher - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:56 am:

    He certainly had a convenient way of investing in folks with connections to state pension business, whether it was $300k in political donations to Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania or with a company who employed a fixer such as Stu Levine. Perhaps tenuous connections to some, but seemed to work out well for him. It’s heartening to imagine that he would bring some of these same business management techniques to state government operations.


  15. - Upon Further Review - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 9:59 am:

    Never assume anything. I have had limited dealings with Burke’s City Council Committee in the past and I have spoken with his associates.


  16. - walker - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:00 am:

    My comment above at 9:48 was stupid.

    I read too quickly, and just assumed TRS was another of Bruce’s funny companies. I have great respect for the staff at TRS.

    More coffee here please.


  17. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    The Stuart Levine angle was always of questionable value to me as a Rauner attack because it was so easy to turn around and pin on Rauner’s opponents given Levine’s longstanding ties to the GOP in addition to the Blagojevich connection. (Like Levine having directly donated to Rutherford in the past or supporting the Senate GOP coffers when Brady and Dillard were in the Senate)

    I know that it was their one way to get Blagojevich and Rauner in the same story but going after him over his Ed Rendell shenanigans or ties to Rahm seem perhaps better attack avenues that are less complicated to communicate to voters. Hit him for being tied to Daley too. Does Bruce’s ideas of running government like a business involve selling off assets like the parking meters deal that returns big profits to financiers but gives a raw deal to taxpayers?


  18. - Small Town Liberal - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:07 am:

    I don’t really care about the Stu Levine story, I’m just staggered at Rauner’s hypocrisy about the public trough. Did he ever have an idea that didn’t involve taking government money?


  19. - langhorne - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:11 am:

    ok, smoke but no fire. yet. smoke is smelly and so is this.

    rauner wanted an increase in his TRS allocation and stu levine stymied it. the first presentation was botched, apparently, so bad that rauner took the reins and did the next presentation. they got the increased allocation.

    this shows that the board was not an automatic rubber stamp. if rauner had to come to the rescue, i just cant believe he wouldnt want to know who the *** was who stopped it. bauman said the second presentation was much better. rauner cant keep his story straight.

    i never testified before a committee without going down the list of members, and taking a cursory look at their bill sponsorships. due diligence. rauners disdain for board members does not impress. tho i guess it makes sense. his approach is to drop $300,000 on the governor, and it doesnt much matter who the board members are.

    to me, it is a matter of the level of proof required to make a decision. nail rauner for a criminally corrupt connection to levine?–high level of proof. see enough of his approach to things to want him not to be my governor–lower level of proof, and we are way passed that threshold.


  20. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    langhorne raises a good point.

    Did Rauner give presentations w/o researching the people he was presenting to?

    That doesn’t sound like the high level people I’ve watched work.


  21. - olddog - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    Leave it to the Trib to handle the story like celebrity gossip. Are Miley and Justin BFFs? Did Bruce and Stu have a secret rendezvous?

    The issue here is a troubling overall pattern of sharp dealing and working against the public interest in Rauner’s business practices. It may all be legal — guys like Rauner hire good lawyers to make sure of that. It may even be true that Rauner never “met” Levine — the lawyers would be able to suggest any number of ways of maintaining deniability. I’m not sure he’d have much to add if he were willing to talk, and the lawyers are bound by client-attorney privilege.

    But there’s plenty of legitimate information here that the voters need to know about how Rauner actually runs a business, and the news media aren’t putting it out there so they can make an informed decision in March.


  22. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    ==So, on the one hand, it’s good to see the Tribune not jumping to wild conclusions about a politician, as they’ve so often done with others. They almost never take a candidate’s word for anything.==

    Highly doubtful that TribCo is going to end its hypocritical hyperventilating discussions of politicians who don’t immediately go along with the short-sighted line of its editorial board. They can’t have their reporters ticking off Billionaire Bruce. He might be their angel someday soon, bringing back the glory days of Colonel McCormick, i.e. an atavistic America that no one wants.


  23. - Obama's Puppy - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    ====I don’t really care about the Stu Levine story=== Amen, this guy is a hypocrite like none other. Which tells me he is laughing at those who think he somehow cares about this state, he cares about making money and that is all. You really think he got into this because he worried about Illinois? Please - he is investing right now to get a return down the road and his supporters are buying his union boss, career politician, tax bull.


  24. - circular firing squad - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    This is just like the Ryan/CDL story…tribbies say no big deal move on….maybe their balloon experts can wander through the St and ERV wreckage to learn more about Stu’s’ medical career


  25. - Upon Further Review - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    The story needs more to gain traction. It is too ambiguous now which makes it easy for Rauner to deny.

    I am confused by Rauner’s candidacy, it is like a huge ego trip. H/T to Oswego Willy for comparing Rauner to Charles Foster Kane yesterday. Spot on.


  26. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    - Upon Further Review -,

    Thanks, and there have been quite a few here also who have gone down the CFK road too, besides me, h/t to them over this time as well.

    To the Post,

    This article is exactly why I have/had been harping on the “3″ for months and month;

    Fellas, there ain’t no ONE Silver Bullet.

    This is exactly like a circumstantial case, where all the evidence, collectively, paint a picture to a jury to make a decision.

    Payton Prep and Daley appointee and monies after, Rahm and vacations, Ed Rendell and Pensions, Stu Levine, the DNC, Farm Losses, Lason, Nursing Homes …

    Alot of “there” there to make a compelling circumstantial case that Rauner is not the right person to be the Nominee, or to be Governor.

    Collectively.

    You can not build a picture to a jury (voters) so late in the game, that it just look like desperate mud being slung.

    There needed to be a narrative, so when the Levine issue, or the Nursing Home, or the Payton Prep…. when those roll out, the narrative from May, June, July, State Fair … “Yeah, not surprised about that and Rauner, been hearing that for months …”

    Now, Rauner has cut off monies, owns the Air War, dictates the late responses, and is trying to dictate how the media and voters should look at the picture.

    I harp, and whine, and complain, because Rauner is/was not your typical Rich Guy, and with no Silver Bullet, the avalanche that is the Rauner Media and Money machine will not be stopped by a very weak hand pretending to be that Silver Bullet.

    Quinn and the Unions, and the Dems…

    They will not go easy early if the “draw” is Rauner.

    The perfect storm for the ILDems … Oberweis and Rauner at the top, with no stopping the intolerance, elitism, union bashing, 1%ers, entitlement, and a lack of compasion for the sick, poor, and children.

    I understood/understand timing, I totally get that, I really do, but what the “3″ forgot in all this measuring up of Rauner is that Rauner holds “the Trump”, and the “3″ have off-suit 9s and 10s, in this high stake game of Euchre.

    Time was the commodity most squandered, and money is the “1A” to that time.

    This article, could have been a great “add” to the circumstantial case from May, or June, not its just a chance to maybe speculate, and see if a fire eurupts.


  27. - Rahm'sMiddleFinger - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 11:57 am:

    Ok, but no one has answered the question… what was Stu Levine hired to do? At $25K a month? That provided a Return on Investment for Comp Benefits?


  28. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    –Rauner said he made no attempt to understand who the TRS board members were because they served largely as rubber stamps for recommendations made by staffers at the pension agency.–

    That’s not what we heard in the Blago, Rezko, Cellini trials.


  29. - Ghost - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 1:16 pm:

    Didnt the tribune run some Madigan stories that had the same smoke about links with his law practice, property tax etc etc but no fire but drew the opposite conclusion


  30. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    - Ghost -,

    The “Look over here” …

    Is Speaker Madigan in the discussion?


  31. - Northsider - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    Levine was not appointed to the TRS Board until AFTER Rauner’s firm bought Compdent/Compbenefits.
    I find it sketchy that a fund doing millions in TRS work wouldn’t notice a brand new appointee to the TRS Board. (And then realize he happened to work for them)


  32. - Drallid - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 2:11 pm:

    Rauner in his best Sargent Schultz voice, “I kkknow nothing!”


  33. - Ghost - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 2:36 pm:

    OW I was going more for a comment on the tribunes investigative process :) depending in the subject of the article more then the content, they tend to take the same the hoof beats and declare either horses or zebras, based on how the feel about the person more then the facts.

    I assume you know have a shocked look on your face :)


  34. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    - Ghost -,

    Well done, lol


  35. - Joan P. - Friday, Jan 31, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    Frankly, I trust your “I’m not convinced” a whole lot more than I trust the Trib’s, since they’re pretty much a shill for Rauner. (Yes, I realize that individual reporters may not be.)


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        * No TIF Funds Will Be Used If Stewart School Reopens As Decatur


        * Governor Quinn Announces Investment to Help Regional Food Banks Better Serve Those in Need - Governor’s Investment Will Ensure Lower Cost and Higher Efficiency for Services Reaching Nearly 2 Million Illinois Residents
        * Governor Pat Quinn Takes Clemency Action
        * Governor Quinn Statement on Abner Mikva Receiving Nation’s Highest Civilian Honor
        * Department of Insurance Announces Multi-State Settlement with Symetra Life Insurance and Symetra National Life Insurance Company - Illinois will share part of a $1.2 million penalty against Symetra Life regarding Life Insurance policies
        * Avoid Foodborne Illness This Holiday Season




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