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Rauner opens new campaign front in pursuit of grand bargain

Monday, Apr 20, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Gov. Bruce Rauner devised a new way to reward his friends and punish his enemies on April 16th when he created a campaign committee called “Illinois Turnaround.”

Illinois Turnaround is an independent expenditure committee, meaning contributions to it and by it are not capped by law. The committee’s officially stated purpose is to “support state legislative candidates who support Gov. Rauner’s bold and needed reforms, and to oppose those who stand in the way.”

According to Rauner insiders, the new committee will be given $4-5 million within days of its founding. That’s in addition to the $20 million the governor has in his own personal campaign account, which won’t be touched for this particular effort.

Spending on advertising is expected to begin soon after the money comes in.

The governor’s campaign also released a polling memo which purports to show that the public backs his agenda. While his job approval rating is just 38 percent, his disapproval rating is five points below at 33 percent and his favorable rating is 42 percent, versus 34 who view him unfavorably.

By contrast, the General Assembly’s job approval rating is a mere 20 percent, with 57 percent disapproving. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s favorables are just 24 percent, with 51 percent viewing him unfavorably.

The poll also found that 57 percent agree with: “Bruce Rauner is trying to shake things up in Springfield, but the career politicians are standing in his way,” and 56 percent agree that the governor is “working to find bipartisan solutions that will help fix Illinois’s budget mess and improve the struggling state economy.”

“Every time they attack us,” a Rauner insider said about the Democrats, “they are reinforcing that they are insiders and the governor is the outsider - he’s the one trying to change things.”

The issue questions are interesting because they provide a roadmap of how the money will be spent and what the governor intends to do at the Statehouse in the coming weeks.

For instance, “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a State Representative who voted to raise the Illinois income tax rate without any property tax freeze and without any significant economic or budget reforms to help our economy grow?” 56 percent said they’d be “less likely” to vote for that legislator, while just 15 percent said “more likely.” The governor is obviously preparing to “go to the mattresses.”

Another question asked whether voters supported higher taxes, without which “major budget cuts… will hurt education, health care, and other state services,” or if they backed lower spending, “even if that means major spending cuts will be required.”

53 percent said they wanted lower spending while 39 percent said they backed higher taxes. The Rauner folks have extrapolated from this question that voters back the governor’s spending cuts. We’ll see.

And they claim that the state Senate hearings around the state which are focusing on the governor’s recent and proposed cuts are doing the Democrats no good. “The bottom line is if the legislature chooses to ignore his reforms and we are forced to go the austere budget - politically - the governor will be fine and the legislature will be in even worse shape,” a Rauner insider e-mailed me.

The “austere budget” is being talked up by Rauner insiders as a way of forcing Democrats to cave on things like local “right to work” zones. They firmly believe that if they refuse to back any additional revenues for next fiscal year, Democrats will eventually have to recognize reality and give the governor what he wants.

The issue questions are clearly loaded. For instance, check out part of the “right to work” question: “Under current Illinois law, workers are often required to join a labor union and pay union dues as a condition of their employment. In other words, the worker cannot take a job unless he or she joins the union.”

Not mentioned is that Rauner wants to allow employees who receive all the benefits of union membership to not have to pay for those valuable union services. It’s like passing a law that lets newspaper advertisers off the hook for paying for their ads.

But when you essentially have unlimited resources and the other side doesn’t, as is the case with Rauner versus the Democrats, you can frame an advocacy campaign pretty much any way you want.

We’ve entered an entirely new world, campers.

* And the AP takes a look at Rauner’s longed-for mega-deal, which would be based on the threat of an “austere budget”

Seizing on Illinois’ budget crisis as a political opportunity, Republican businessman-turned-governor Bruce Rauner is trying to broker a master deal to advance his pro-business priorities through the Legislature in exchange for new revenue to save programs near and dear to the Democrats.

Democratic leaders who control the General Assembly say they’re willing to negotiate, and talks with Republicans could begin in the next week. But they caution that some of Rauner’s proposals are non-starters. […]

“Crisis creates opportunity for change, and we have a crisis. … We’ve got to take advantage of that,” Rauner told attendees at an Illinois Chamber of Commerce event. “A lot people are saying ‘Bruce, just balance the budget and worry about other stuff later. We’ll talk to you later about reform.’ No, no, no. … If we do only that, they’ll never talk about reform. It’ll never happen.” […]

But [Rikeesha Phelon, a spokeswoman for Democratic Senate President John Cullerton] said the Senate will not consider Rauner’s proposal to create right to work zones, which unions strongly oppose and she says wouldn’t make Illinois more competitive. She said Senate Democrats also have differences of opinion with Rauner on what changes are needed to programs like workers’ compensation.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - PublicServant - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 8:58 am:

    ===Crisis creates opportunity for change, and we have a crisis===

    Yeah, you were elected governor.

    Rauner is the poster-child for why we need to overturn Citizens United. Getting your message out is one thing, flooding the airwaves with the intent to con the public, and crowd out any response isn’t political speech, it’s propaganda and Orwellian doublespeak.

  2. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 8:58 am:

    “Crisis creates opportunity for change, and we have a crisis. … We’ve got to take advantage of that,” Rauner told attendees at an Illinois Chamber of Commerce event.

    That isn’t governing.
    That is being hopeful that you get a crisis daily. Governors aren’t supposed to create a crisis, or enjoy a crisis. Governors are supposed to resolve a crisis.

    Illinois needed stability, but we have a governor who enjoys instability. Markets need stability, but we have a governor who enjoys instability. Bonds need stability too.

    When a governor enjoys instability and crisis, the state will suffer instability and crisis. The office of governor was created to resolve conflict and lead from decision, not to generate it.

    Someone needs to stand up and be a state leader. It seems our new governor isn’t interested in the new job he got elected into. He wants to agitate in order to catch a political wave caused by his agitation.

    Rauner isn’t governing.

  3. - Ottawa Phil - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 8:59 am:

    – “But when you essentially have unlimited resources and the other side doesn’t …”–

    C’mon, you are kidding, right? The real news is that now, finally, there are two sides with money and message, as opposed to only one (Madigan).

  4. - QCLib - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:07 am:

    Vanilla, I’d argue Rauner isn’t so much hopeful for a crisis as much as he is manufacturing crisis himself. It’s a very crude, if not genius tactic. Go with the nuclear option on everything and rebuild it all in your vision.

    I’ve said before on here though that I think after a few instances of Rauner’s manufactured crisis situations, Dems will smarten up and not fall for it.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:09 am:

    It’s all fine and dandy.

    Start another committee. Rauner is at OVER $60 million on monies to (let’s be honest, k?) destroy any/all enemies including, but not limited to;

    House Dems
    Senate Dems
    All “non-Owl” GOP Legislators
    Teachers specifically
    Unions, all unions, generally
    The Illinois Constitution
    The Illinois Supreme Court members, some specifically
    Illinois Judicial system, generally
    Those earning too high of wages
    Those earning Union protected wages
    Pensions, generally
    Pensions, specific to groups he wants to reduce in payments
    Pensions, specific to required government payments

    Sonny Corleone only had the Five Families, maybe Chicago, and Vito’s friend from Miami.

    This is the equivalent of telling the kids on the playground, “I’m the bully, and my Dad can either beat up your Dad, and get your Dad fired from his job!”

    Bipartisanship to Rauner? Easy. Do what I say.

    Governor Rauner is about maximizing leverage for his best advantage, but to the best deal.

    Great for business, disastrous for governing, and the opportunity for divided government to maximize collective answers is being dismissed by the self-described “bad guy” you don’t want to cross.

    The bully. The Sonny Corleone.

    More money, more “buttons” on the street, more sneaky double-crossing, more…”well, we actually said …” …baloney.

    “Who” will stand up to the Bully?

    The bully needs 23. Can’t get around that for 60 cents or $60 plus million.


    Thirteen House Dems, ten Senate Dems.

    “…and the offer’s so sweet, I can’t refuse” - Sonny, missing the irony of getting a “Vito” offer, because Sonny, he just wants to win.

    The number might be $60 million, for me, it 23. You need trust for 23, you just need bank routing numbers for $60 million. Come May, it’s still 23., no matter the balances, or even the leverage. The rest is bloviated ignorance to the politics.

  6. - Wordslinger - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:15 am:

    – Rauner campaigned on his record as a successful businessman who could turn Illinois around just as he did hundreds of companies.–

    “Hundreds,” as in at least 200? That’s a lot of company turnarounds. I wonder if Sarah Burnett could name one?

    Rauner did not and, when asked specifically to do so, could not name one successful business turnaround during two years of campaigning. Yet the AP somehow comes up with “hundreds.”

    Sloppy and ignorant are not great qualities in a reporter.

  7. - Jocko - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:17 am:

    Bruce is like Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles…but instead of pointing the gun to his own head, he’s pointing it at the state of Illinois.

    “The next man makes a move, the state gets it.”

  8. - Anon - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:27 am:

    Black widow nurse.

  9. - CharlieKratos - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:30 am:

    Maybe I’ve been watching too much “Daredevil”, but Rauner definitely puts me in mind of the “Kingpin”.

  10. - Aldyth - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:31 am:

    Vulture capitalist = Vulture governor.

    Buy and destroy, the new motto for governing Illinois.

  11. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:31 am:

    Two things. One, I think Governors are expected to believe in their own agenda. Two, a “Grand Bargain” may be exactly what needs to happen. You get some of what you want (and need), and I get some of what I want. At least in the past we would have called that a “compromise” and thought that compromising was a good thing. Of course the devil is in the details: who gets and gives up what?

  12. - Arsenal - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:38 am:

    Three thoughts…

    1) I did say that $20 million isn’t all of the money.

    2) I don’t think the GA really fears austerity budgets all that much. The members seem to understand that the Governor takes the fall for budgets.

    3) I guess now we’ll see what’s more powerful: Legislators’ fear of Rauner’s money, or their anger that he’s smiling to their faces while lining up the knife for their backs.

  13. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:40 am:

    IMHO, BR has already set the tone, but not the pathway to resolution. He begins his path by sounding like a King, rather than Governor. And he’s already burned the bridge to the GA via his unmistakable arrogance and breaking of trust with the 2015 deal.
    Time can be used to maximum ‘leverage’ but BR doesn’t seem to understand how the political scale tips back and forth over long stretches of that time.
    BR has chosen poorly the use of his time in the first days of his administration and will be hampered for it during his entire term. If he continues to utilize his time the same way, yielding the same results (See def. ‘insanity’), then our great State will lose for the next 4 years. Burn the GA with the 2015 budget deal promise and time becomes your enemy. Trust disappears, resentment grows, and over time, one political actor drifts aimlessly aside into history (without much success to show for his investment in both time, treasure and legacy).

  14. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:48 am:

    Rich, how is it different from the funds Madigan has controlled for years?

  15. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 9:57 am:

    ==You get some of what you want (and need), and I get some of what I want.==

    So far I haven’t seen any indication that the Governor is willing to take anything less than everything he wants. He’s said over and over and over that he wants it all. I believe him when he says that.

  16. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:01 am:

    - You get some of what you want (and need), and I get some of what I want. -

    Is that how the shill/paid appointment relationship works?

  17. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    ===Rich, how is it different from the funds Madigan has controlled for years? ===

    Read the story…

    ===According to Rauner insiders, the new committee will be given $4-5 million within days of its founding. That’s in addition to the $20 million the governor has in his own personal campaign account, which won’t be touched for this particular effort. ===

    $24 million cash on hand in April, 2015 versus about $2+ million cash on hand for both Democratic leaders as of March 31st.

    Math ain’t that hard.

  18. - MrJM - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:16 am:

    Illinois Held Hostage: Day 98

    – MrJM

  19. - Langhorne - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:27 am:

    ==the bottom line is if the legislature chooses to ignore his reforms and we are forced to go the austere budget - politically - the governor will be fine and the legislature will be in even worse shape,” a Rauner insider e-mailed me.===

    That is as cynical as it gets. To balance an “austere” budget requires immense cuts and deep pain. But the governor will be fine politically, so we dare you.

    The polling is skewed and self serving in the extreme. Do you want bread and circuses, for free? Sure. Eventually, though, first responders get cut, hospitals close, college tuition goes up for fewer offerings, social services wither, roads go to hell,
    and on and on. All politics is local. i thought you were going to cut the other guys goodies, not mine. If fy 16 budget is scorched earth, that leads into fy 17, an election year.

  20. - walker - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:41 am:

    Wow. That’s quite a message they’re trying to sell.

    –Either go with Rauner’s anti-union agenda, or become responsible for the cuts in an “austere” budget.–

    Hunh? Aren’t spending cuts Rauner’s agenda too?

    Rauner is finally admitting that union-busting is more important to him than cutting spending in next year’s budget.

    Amazing what the public might buy, if the BS is sold loudly and widely enough.

  21. - Langhorne - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:42 am:

    What will the dem strategy be on votes on reform bills? If they believe rauners ( questionable) polling, that voters support the reforms, then the dems prob dont want to allow repubs to get credit for trying. But the unions may want dems on roll calls crushing the reforms. The ads will hammer them regardless, to
    what effect?

    Rauner says he is willing to compromise—as long as there are
    no changes. He didnt even want chages on his meaningless resolution. You dont have to worry about legislative process
    when it is take it or leave it.

  22. - QCLib - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:55 am:

    If we’re severely cutting the budget, can’t his office budget be severely cut as well? Or is that protected by something else?

  23. - independent - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:58 am:

    Sounds like Illinois could be a brand new chapter for Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine , from Wikipedia winners and losers of economic shock therapy – how small groups will often do very well by moving into luxurious gated communities while large sections of the population are left with decaying public infrastructure, declining incomes and increased unemployment.

  24. - Jack Stephens - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:59 am:

    His arrogance is astounding.

    This is why Citizens United needs to be overturned nationally and public funding of all elections made mandatory.

  25. - Juvenal - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    Schnorf: the ends do not justify the means when you are holding children with autism, adults with developmental disabilities, and their families hostage.

    If he indeed believe a “grand bargain” is needed, Rauner could have threatened to hold up $100 million in business subsidies or put a brick on the Exelon rate hike.

    But instead, he is choosing to single out and bully the most vulnerable members of our society.

    It is not morally or politically defensible.

    Moreover, it is indirect violation of the state’s performance-based budgeting laws, which says that cuts should be based on merit.

    So, it is not economically defensible either.

  26. - Arsenal - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:19 am:

    “the bottom line is if the legislature chooses to ignore his reforms and we are forced to go the austere budget - politically - the governor will be fine and the legislature will be in even worse shape,” a Rauner insider e-mailed me”

    That’s really questionable logic, too. Pat Quinn’s the one who got hammered for facility closures. Pat Quinn’s the one who got humiliated at Governor’s Day by the unions. Pat Quinn’s the one who got sent home.

    I honestly don’t think they understand that most people can’t even name their state legislator, much less or going to focus all their ire on them.

  27. - Juvenal - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:21 am:


    The strategy is legislation in the BIMP capping salaries for the governor’s senior staff at $99K and using that money to restore funding for autism.

    There won’t be a vote on Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” because the bills don’t exist.

    Flannery and the AP ought to FOIA for the copies of the six bills.

  28. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:30 am:

    MrJM, I hate to disagree with you but it’s more like Day 98 of the process for the corporate purchase of Illinois.

  29. - walker - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:40 am:

    With this “grand bargain,” we’re going to end up around where we would have anyway. The political realities, arithmetic, and legal restrictions put pretty tight boundaries around the possibilities.

    But the tactics and communications being used to get there are destructive. As are the political bad feelings.

    “We shook and we shook and we shook, but the martini ended up the same.”

  30. - A guy - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    MrJM, I don’t hate to disagree with you. I’d call it Day 98 of changing the parameters of the “field of compromise”. Both sides are starting at their own goal line for the first time in a very long time.

  31. - Skeptic - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 11:47 am:

    “We shook and we shook and we shook, but the martini ended up the same.” or:

    “We cut and we cut and we cut and the board was still too short.”

  32. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    Juv, and exactly how would that bring the Dems to the table?

  33. - Conservative Veteran - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 12:21 pm:

    I hope that, before the 2016 primary, a conservative group will spend at least $20 million to campaign for legislative candidates who are more conservative than Rauner and the candidates he wants to help.

  34. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 12:34 pm:

    ===I hope that===


    And I hope that there’s a Santa Claus.

  35. - Uncle Buncle - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 12:36 pm:

    I wonder if Seiu wishes it had that $3-4 million it burned trying to take out Rahm? Probably not, which is precisely the problem.

  36. - Juvenal - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 12:40 pm:


    Democrats have been at the table for five years, arguably longer, when it has come to sustainable funding for our budget.

    I think capping the salaries of the governor’s staff, and thereby their pensions, might bring the governor’s staff to the table.

    Perhaps I am mistaken.

  37. - BlameBruceRauner - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 1:13 pm:

    Arson creates fire! By stating that “we got to take advantage of crisis”, is very very unappealing, and frankly makes the governor seem even more heartless. Lets create crisis so we can hold people hostage! This is a BAD message that you are portraying. Govern Your state you bought last Fall!

  38. - MrJM - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 1:39 pm:

    ‘I’d call it Day 98 of changing the parameters of the “field of compromise”.’

    It’s certainly true that services for state wards over the age of 18, and programs for autistic children and their families didn’t used to be in the cross-hairs.

    Thank heavens that free motorcycle training is still outside the “field of compromise”.

    – MrJM

  39. - Anonin' - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 2:28 pm:

    QOTD should be the over/under how much BVR spends helpin’ supporters versus slapin’ enemies…..we’re guessin’ 99% slappin’ 1% helpin’.

  40. - illinoised - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 2:28 pm:

    It is unfortunate that BR is creating problems rather than being part of the solution to fix existing problems. We will have a new governor in four years, if we survive this one.

  41. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 2:29 pm:

    ===if we survive this one===

    Get over yourself. Sheesh.

  42. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 4:13 pm:

    Juv, I think what you are suggesting would require legislation that the GA would be highly unlikely to pass, don’t you. Especially important is the “think’ part, and it’s usually better used before you post rather than after

  43. - Property of IDOC - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:37 pm:

    If we see what he is premeditating for our State, how do we stop him?

  44. - Property of IDOC - Monday, Apr 20, 15 @ 10:40 pm:

    If we see what he is premeditating for our State, what will get in the way of his systematic elimination of our middle class?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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