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*** UPDATED x1 *** Sun-Times sidelined reporter after Rauner campaign intervention

Saturday, Oct 18, 2014 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Dave McKinney disappeared from the Sun-Times for several days after the paper ran his piece about Bruce Rauner’s alleged threat to “bury” a former female CEO. Crain’s has some of the back-story

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter hired former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate whether the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner tried to interfere with his employment after the newspaper ran a story unfavorable to the politician.

Mr. Collins said in an interview with Crain’s that the Rauner campaign attempted to retaliate against Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney after the paper ran the story about Mr. Rauner allegedly verbally threatening a top executive of a company controlled by Mr. Rauner’s onetime investment firm. Mr. Rauner denied that report through a spokesman. […]

The Rauner campaign attempted to have the Sun-Times take action against Mr. McKinney because of what it alleged were conflicts of interest stemming from Mr. McKinney’s marriage to Democratic media consultant Ann Liston, Mr. Collins said.

Mr. McKinney and Ms. Liston were married in April, but Mr. Collins said the couple made arrangements earlier in the year at each of their jobs to create barriers within their work so that their relationship wouldn’t present conflicts of interest for Mr. McKinney, who is the paper’s bureau chief in Springfield.

“Dave McKinney has a body of work as a dogged, but fair and impartial reporter and what happened recently was an attempt to unfairly besmirch Dave’s reputation and he has asked me to evaluate whether there was an improper interference with Dave’s employment relationship with the Sun-Times,” Mr. Collins said in an interview. […]

Just hours before the Sun-Times story went to press, the Rauner campaign attempted to quash the piece by bringing up Ms. Liston’s political work with Sun-Times management even though Mr. McKinney has been covering the campaign for months, according to Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins didn’t have details on who in the Rauner campaign contacted the Sun-Times and who at the newspaper was contacted.

Mr. McKinney has also written stories that were critical of incumbent Democratic candidate Gov. Pat Quinn, specifically his involvement with the troubled state-funded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

In recent days, Mr. McKinney was inexplicably absent from his statehouse beat for five days despite one of the hottest gubernatorial races in recent memory

The Rauner people went after McKinney, then all of a sudden the paper decided to endorse the guy. What a coinkidink.


And, by the way, Dave’s marriage to Ann had zero to do with this story. McKinney has been beating the Quinn administration over their freaking heads about the NRI investigation all year (to the point where I’ve criticized him in the Fax). Any suggestion that he was leaning Democratic is absolutely ridiculous and insane. And the decision to sideline him, to my mind, was purely about politics.

I have my own Sun-Times Rauner story, which I plan to share with subscribers on Monday.

…Adding… Liston is not a lobbyist. She’s a flak. Big difference.

*** UPDATE *** Chicago Sun-Times Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk claimed to Crain’s that no action was taken against McKinney, but did say this in an updated Crain’s piece

“Mr. Rauner’s campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf did level allegations with me that proved inaccurate and spurious,” Mr. Kirk wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution, we did review this matter and we are convinced Dave’s wife Ann Liston receives no financial benefit from any Illinois political campaign because of the extraordinary steps they’ve taken to establish business safeguards. Dave’s body of work during this campaign, including the ground-breaking stories on the investigation involving Gov. Pat Quinn and the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, demonstrates the hard-nosed reporting he has done on both campaigns. Both Dave and Ann are conscientious, ethical and among the best at their professions.”


  1. - Demoralized - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 7:32 am:

    If you are a Rauner supporter and cannot admit that this is absolutely outrageous then you truly have zero ability to be honest.

  2. - Redux - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 7:33 am:

    = inaccurate and spurious=

    Sounds about right. Rauner’s people aren’t just politically off base, they are dangerous. However, the Sun Times is so in the bag for Rauner, I am shocked that Kirk even admitted this. I am also sure the “caution” was highly “abundant.” Afterall, McKinney only has a 30 year track record. Puh-leeze.

  3. - William j Kelly - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 8:03 am:

    Demoralized, zero ability to be honest is the very definition of a rauner supporter.

  4. - walker - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 8:04 am:

    To his credit, Kirk was open, honest and clear with his statement.

    But it took him five days to decide the charges were “inaccurate and spurious” and that McKinney was “conscientious and ethical?”

    How about a one-hour turnaround on that at most? That was a story easily debunked by a few phone calls. Has Kirk lost his reporting skills?

  5. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 8:25 am:

    This puts more focus on the female executive story. If Rauner didn’t threaten her, why would his campaign try to suppress the story?

  6. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 8:58 am:

    Dear Mr. McKinney,

    I probably can’t count the number of stories you have written that I have read, or the number of times I referenced your work to someone. I am a fan of your work, but more importantly, I’m a fan that I like how you go about your business.

    “How you go about your business,” that is as good as I compliment. It means the package that make you up, not the pieces, or parts, but the pieces and parts that allow you to do your thing are something I admire. That is true with you.

    Make no mistake, I probably have stated “Have you read McKinney?” with glee as often as with “anger”, and that is what I expect most, and you haven’t disappointed. I can tell you both reactions were based on knowing you have fine your best to give the story the attention of your craft, and it’s not shoddy partisan talking points masquerading as news.

    I am but one of many who have stood up and wanted to be counted standing with you. Many are far more influential, or “famous” and many are far more credible to stand behind you than me. However, allowing others to stand where you should stand is something I refuse, and being another person standing with you, is more important than me being counter as one among many.

    I always look forward to be pleased or be angered by your solid reporting, but I never question the validity of work, or the personal actions of you. That’s what scares Chip Englander, and what frightens Bruce Rauner. So much so, theyveebtvafter another woman as their target, instead of looking at you and your bride as the individuals you are, and realizing integrity if the process is beyond reproach.

    Unlike what started all this, I made this comment in a public forum, not because the harsh light was needed, but that the shining light is warranted. Even admitting what the Rauner Crew admits, it makes it no less sleazy, and it’s rationale, no more “true” then they pretended their reasons to be.

    Much respect.


  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 8:58 am:

    And, by the way, Dave’s marriage to Ann had zero to do with this story.

    How do you know that? Come on, optics is everything. What “protections” did they build into their relationship? Can I FOIA their email to see if they are on the up and up? Of course not. Transparency is for the government, not the media, right Rich?

  8. - hisgirlfriday - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 9:05 am:

    Didn’t McKinney break a ton of stuff that was damaging to Blago during his tenure too? Ridiculous to question his integrity.

    And its ridiculous that a guy who made 60 million last year is so desperate to satisfy his vanity chasing after the job of governor that he would try to destroy the livelihood of a journalist who wouldn’t make that much money at their job in 25 lifetimes (at least).

    And its ridiculous that a guy who used to own a newspaper could detest the institution of a free press so much that he would use his clout to try to get a critical story’s author fired, but of course we knew exactly how little respect he had for a free press when he barred student journalists from observing his press conference.

    Simply repulsive.

  9. - Jocko - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 9:14 am:

    ==Can I FOIA their email to see if they are on the up and up?==

    BTW, You might have to put your legal name on the FOIA request.

  10. - walker - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 9:16 am:


    But But But Rauner didn’t personally do those things, it was his hired campaign executives!

  11. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    OW - I think McKinney is awesome as well. But has he or anyone actually come out and said he was sidelined for 5 days? If so I missed it. Did anyone ask the editor if in fact they sidelined him? I have learned to just not trust anything coming out of either campaign.

  12. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    ===or anyone actually come out and said he was sidelined for 5 days?===

    Yep. The publisher:

  13. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Hey Rich, thanks. The link to your other post works, but the link on there to Kirks “explaining his version” does not work, it is showing story not found. I am searching the internet for it….just thought you should know I tried the link and it is not working. Still looking for someone who’s saying he was sidelined because of the Rauner complaint.

  14. - Demoralized - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    ==Still looking for someone who’s saying he was sidelined because of the Rauner complaint==

    If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

  15. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    “In no way has Dave been disciplined,” Mr. Kirk said in his initial Oct. 10 statement. “Any implication is absolutely false and irresponsible. Dave is an exceptional reporter who continues to do great work for the Sun-Times,” he said. Mr. Kirk, a former editor at Crain’s Chicago Business, didn’t respond to requests for comment on Mr. McKinney’s hiring of Mr. Collins.

    All ducks aside, I still can’t find anything on Kirk other than the above, and other statements supporting the reporter.

    The only ones saying he was retaliated against is the reporters attorney, who won’t say what the retaliation was or was not.

    In my opinion, this is a total hit piece on Rauner.

  16. - Rich Miller - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    ====All ducks aside, I still can’t find anything on Kirk other than the above, and other statements supporting the reporter.===

    Dude, it’s in the other post. Kirk admitted it to Hinz. If you post another comment like that, I will sideline you.

  17. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 12:10 pm:

    My personal experience with Dave (and I’ve had plenty of it over many years) has been that he is always very ready to listen to and pursue any story relating to government ethics, campaign finance issues, election shenanigans, FOIA issues, and open government matters generally, regardless of the political parties or highly-placed officials involved.

    To suggest that he might be in the tank with the Quinn campaign is just ludicrous. This man has an impeccable reputation spanning several decades.

    The real story here is that Dave was “sidelined” at exactly the same time that the Sun-Times was deciding to endorse Rauner.

  18. - David Starrett - Monday, Oct 20, 14 @ 12:19 pm:

    The above post shouldn’t have been “Anonymous.” It was mine, and I want my name on it.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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