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Behind the scenes

Monday, Feb 10, 2014

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

One of the reasons why people near Treasurer Dan Rutherford are so nervous these days is because of the possibility that other employees might come out of the woodwork with even more allegations.

As I write this, the publicly revealed facts are still quite thin. A now former employee of Rutherford’s has claimed, without producing any hard evidence as of this writing, that he was sexually harassed and told to do political fundraising work. Rutherford has flatly denied the allegations, claiming they are politically motivated and part of a shakedown attempt that’s being pushed by his Republican gubernatorial primary opponent Bruce Rauner. The former employee, Rutherford claims, demanded $300,000 through his attorney to remain quiet. Rauner has denied any involvement.

The treasurer’s office has negotiated two previous severance agreements, a fact that the accuser’s lawyer alluded to last week when she told WLS Radio’s Dan Proft “Their standard MO [mode of operation] is to work out standard severance agreements. That’s what they do, and they’ve been doing that the last two or three years with employees.”

But a top Rutherford aide completely and adamantly denied last week that the prior severance agreements had anything to do with any sort of allegations of misconduct by Rutherford whatsoever. So, Rutherford’s allies can probably rest easy on that potential problem because it likely doesn’t exist.

Rutherford has a reputation among his friends and acquaintances as being a pleasant, positive, somewhat quirky, but almost always upbeat guy. You can’t help but like the man. He’s one of the truly nice guys in this state’s political world.

Working for Rutherford, however, is sometimes anything but a pleasant experience. He is, like many in politics, a man driven by ambition who has long aimed his sights at a higher office. He works almost nonstop, and he doesn’t care for those who can’t keep up with him or don’t meet his standards.

For instance, several weeks ago, Rutherford, an aide and a driver were on the road. Rutherford was not happy with the driver’s performance at an event. As punishment, Rutherford ordered the driver to remain in the car while he and the other aide went into a restaurant. Rutherford also reportedly took the car keys with him into the restaurant. The devastated young man called his sister and had her pick him up and quit on the spot.

A top aide to Rutherford confirmed the story the other day, but brushed it off, explaining that everybody has their bad moments. We all do, indeed, have our bad moments which shouldn’t wind up being used to judge our complete character.

While admittedly on the extreme end of his personality spectrum, it’s that sort of behavior which has Rutherford’s allies worried about what some other employees might say to a lawyer or a reporter. And there are a dozen or more stories of a similar nature. The treasurer, to put it bluntly, has more than a few disgruntled people in his office.

But potential trouble from revenge-minded employees represents only a small part of the storm facing the treasurer. Word from inside is that the folks who say they can corroborate allegations of sexual harassment and pressure to raise campaign funds by Treasurer Dan Rutherford were telling their full stories last week to the independent investigator appointed by Rutherford to get to the bottom of the story. We’ll see if those stories hold up to scrutiny.

The very real possibility of a Rutherford political collapse has not yet completely deterred labor groups from pushing ahead with their plan to attack Bruce Rauner via negative TV ads. However, they don’t seem as confident as they were a month ago that the strategy will work.

One top labor official said last week that he never thought they had more than a 25 percent chance of defeating Rauner in the Republican primary, even though a month ago he appeared quite confident they could throw a knockout punch.

The fallback plan appears to be to tarnish Rauner enough in the next month or so that he doesn’t start off with a huge and insurmountable lead over Gov. Pat Quinn after the primary ends. Quinn is already trailing all four of his Republican opponents by eight to ten points, so, barring a knockout, they want to stop any further Quinn erosion and knock Rauner back on his heels a bit.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anon - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    “The devastated young man called his sister and had her pick him up and quit on the spot.”

    How did Rutherford ever get home without a driver???

  2. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    Rutherford had the car keys.

  3. - Justsayin' - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    It is interesting that the media is covering this - but not Rauner’s many, many conflicts. Those have generally been a one day story. Two at most.

  4. - Percival - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    The nasty boss stuff won’t stick, the pressure to raise money bit no one will understand even if true, but additional harassment allegations that are more than office chatter will be devastating.

  5. - PoolGuy - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    i know that was a one-off incident, but that’s seems harsh to not allow the guy to eat lunch or dinner because he wasn’t perfect. if my boss said i couldn’t eat lunch because i goofed up I might have a problem with that.

  6. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    Hope that didn’t happen in the last couple of months. It’s been cold out there.

    Doesn’t it count as animal cruelty to leave a living creature in the car during extreme temperatures, lol? Good for the kid though. It takes guts to do that.

  7. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:03 am:

    - Perry Noya -, Rutherford is “quirky”, he is many things, and running for the Big Chair, and being a Statewide causes “strain”.

    Good candidates know having good people working for you is important, Great Candidates know its even better to keep those good people happy.

    To the Post,

    The Rutherford “damage control” is only going to highlight more the corroborated instances of Dan Rutherford infect the mindset of those looking at this with an open mind. “You hear one, then you hear two …” is Rutherford’s biggest political problem. The lawsuit is either his biggest personal tragedy, or Rutherford’s biggest disappointment to those he may have let down.

    We will all know soon enough.

  8. - VictorNorth - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Punishes his driver, takes car keys and leaves him in the car? Grabbing genitals? Rutherford sounds unhinged. I would have quit on the spot as well. Stick a fork in him, he’s done.

  9. - William j Kelly - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Has anyone asked how iPi may or may not receive money from rauner allegedly. And still sponsor a debate that may or may not be moderated by Proft allegedly.

  10. - Wensicia - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    Sometimes, you can needlessly put down, harass or ridicule the right (or wrong) employee, resulting in a vindictive act months or years later. Be careful of whom you may disparage.

  11. - hawksfan - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    “Quirky” = throwing a childlike tantrum to embarrass and denigrate a staffer?

  12. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    - hawksfan -,

    I am pretty sure I put the word in quotes for Irony, and to mock the idea that serious charges like these are not to be looked at as “quirky” while some close to Mr. Rutherford might hope.

    Yeah. I am pretty sure I was going for that.

  13. - Anon - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    == Rutherford had the car keys. ==

    Yeah, but he didn’t have a driver…

  14. - Levois - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:27 am:

    So there’s a chance that, this could get worse before it gets better.

  15. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    Or get bad before it gets even worse.

  16. - SAP - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    I’ve always subscribed to the notion that character is defined by what you do when you don’t think anyone is watching. The “truly nice guys in the political world” doesn’t cut it for me with the driver story out there, and I was someone who thought that Rutherford was the only viable Republican alternative to Rauner. Not anymore. Rutherford is nothing but a fake good guy.

  17. - Rod - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    So Rich your article does not indicate that Rutherford’s Chief of Staff has been killing sexual harassment claims against Rutherford. This was a claim made in the accuser’s resignation letter that appeared on the blog. Are those claims still being made?

    The fund raising allegation is to put it simple, devastating, if it is substantiated. How many times do we have to go through this in Illinois, squeezing money from staff for campaigns is an old and universal illness shared by Republicans and Democrats.

  18. - Catrike - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    It is possible to be a member of an oppressed minority and a bully at the same time. This guy is apparently both. I can understand using clout to get your daughter into a good school, but this kind of petty viciousness not so much.

  19. - shore - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    If I were an Illinois democrat the last 12 years easily obama winning in 2008 would be the highlight but watching republicans flail like this would frankly be so much more enjoyable. From Jack Ryan to dur(k)in to the awkward bush-george ryan rallies, alan keyes, brady’s goofiness, the congressional castration known as the 2012 reapportionment it’s like being a cardinals fan watching the cubs the last 100 years. Forget Letterman’s top 10, or the dirty dozen, we need a worst 100 for our follies.

    Oh and the formerly most popular republican candidate for 2016 in the country comes tomorrow disgraced hat in hand while the metro areas own Hillary gets set to sail into the white house in 2017.

  20. - wordslinger - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    Since it’s confirmed, the incident with the driver is disturbing.

    Rutherford’s actions were bush-league, to say the least. Big shots who abuse “the help” are the lowest-of-the-low.

  21. - Johnny Q. Suburban - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 12:04 pm:

    Rutherford took in 26K over the weekend. Odd that his fundraising would pick up now of all times.

  22. - DuPage Rep - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    Let’s not forget that Rutherford insists that he be referred to as “The Treasurer” at all times. A little ego problem?

  23. - curmudgeon - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 12:21 pm:

    = “he doesn’t care for those who can’t keep up with him or don’t meet his standards. …was not happy with the driver’s performance … ordered the driver to remain in the car while he and the other aide went into a restaurant. Rutherford also reportedly took the car keys with him into the restaurant.”

    Sheesh! Apparently Rutherford learned nothing from seeing that sort of behaviour in the DCCA management team (Peter B. Fox & his successors) when he was on the Marketing staff (international business). And, yes, there were rumors about his preferences back then, too.

  24. - A modest proposal - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    IMHO, if working as a low level staffer was that bad, then the driver was probably more relieved than devastated…

    Devastating would probably fall under the category of being groped in the Treasurer’s home with no witnesses.

  25. - using common sense - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    - Anon - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 11:23 am:== Rutherford had the car keys. == Yeah, but he didn’t have a driver…

    I’m pretty sure the treasurer knows how to drive, Rich also said that another staffer was with him. They probably got demoted to driver for the rest of the day…

  26. - Anonymous in Aurora - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 1:05 pm:

    I respect your wisdom, Rich, but the incident with the driver is pretty awful. Yes, we all have “bad moments,” but what we do when we have them is very telling.

    And, from the WLS article, what’s with the overnight retreat at Rutherford’s house? That’s just incredibly odd - if true.

  27. - Anon. - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    ==I’ve always subscribed to the notion that character is defined by what you do when you don’t think anyone is watching. The “truly nice guys in the political world” doesn’t cut it for me with the driver story out there, and I was someone who thought that Rutherford was the only viable Republican alternative to Rauner. Not anymore. Rutherford is nothing but a fake good guy.==

    How you treat the “little” people is very telling. As Dave Barry liked to say, “A person, who is nice to you, but rude to a waiter, is not a nice person.”

  28. - ZC - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 3:46 pm:

    So as a hypothetical, let’s say Rutherford does drop out.

    This has to open up a small opportunity for Senator Bill Brady, I’m thinking. But I don’t know how much his campaign can seize it.

  29. - Statesman - Monday, Feb 10, 14 @ 5:50 pm:

    Inquiring minds wonder if Pongee the wunderkar will show up to rescue DR!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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