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Oops: The state may soon receive a $2 million windfall from the Rauner campaign

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* Remember this Gov. Bruce Rauner quote from the other day when he was asked about how his contributors differed from Democratic contributors?

“My donors are basically taxpayers. My donors are taxpayers. And the reality is, I have not taken money from folks who do business with the state, who make money from the government and by the government spending more money. Frankly, it’s illegal for businesses or individuals who contract or do business with the state to do business with politicians. That’s a good restriction. I haven’t taken any money from any of those folks. My donors are taxpayers, pure and simple.”

* Well

The head of a company that has done more than $50,000 in business with the state in each of the past four years donated $2 million to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign fund in December in apparent conflict with state campaign finance laws.

Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest is CEO of Uline, a packaging supply company now based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. In December, he gave Citizens for Rauner a $2 million contribution. Uihlein’s wife, Elizabeth, is president of the firm, and she donated $25,000 to Rauner in October. […]

A state law that took effect in 2010 state, “Any business entity whose contracts with State agencies, in the aggregate, annually total more than $50,000 … are prohibited from making any contributions to any political committee established to promote the candidacy of (i) the officeholder responsible for awarding the contracts or (ii) any other declared candidate for that office.” Vendors whose business exceeds the threshold are supposed to register with the State Board of Elections.

Uihlein’s company did not register with the Board of Elections.


* The matter is now under investigation by the state’s chief procurement officer. Other candidates who’ve found themselves in violation have had to give the money to the state’s General Revenue Fund

As for whether that means Citizens for Rauner, the governor’s campaign fund, will have to give more than $2 million to the state treasury because of Uline’s state business, [the state’s chief procurement officer, Matt Brown] said he didn’t want to go that far.

“We want to conduct that analysis before I give you any idea what the outcome could be,” he said.

…Adding… This specific Uihlein topic was first mentioned by a commenter ten days ago.

…Adding More… Yellow Dog Democrat pointed out this issue way back in January.

* Meanwhile, let’s go back to this Tom Kacich story about how the governor is attempting to recruit candidates with the promise of spending $1 million each on 20 legislative candidates next year

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he wants Meister to consider running for Senate, and is willing to bankroll his campaign to the tune of about a million dollars.

“He told me very specifically that he has 20 million dollars and that he’s working to do a million for 20 races that he thinks are the most winnable,” said Meister, the 32-year-old owner of Minneci’s Ristorante in southwest Champaign, and an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2012.

* I told subscribers about the questionable legality of this effort last week and included it in my newspaper column this week. The Sun-Times followed up

“Whoever it is who is doing the recruiting and contributing would have to be set up as something other than the independent expenditure committee,” said Ken Menzel, general counsel to the Illinois State Board of Elections. […]

“When you say you’re going to encourage someone to run and you’ll help them raise so much money, that doesn’t mean you’re going to hand them a check for that amount,” Menzel said, but instead could mean: “’I can put you in touch with other groups from my donor base’ . . . the national campaigns kind of end up working that way, too.”

The attention that the practice is getting has set off alarms in the world of campaign finance, though, and word is campaign finance attorneys are looking into the legality of Rauner’s overture to Meister.

“The governor is not above the law,” said Jerry Morrison, assistant to the president of the SEIU Local 1 union. “If you’re going to present yourself to the public as a reformer and you’re going to shake up Springfield, you certainly should be following the law.

posted by Rich Miller
Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:34 am


  1. Bleepin’ golden.

    Another Governor under investigation.

    Comment by Ghostbusters Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:37 am

  2. Bruce Rauner - fixing Illinois’ budget one campaign violation at a time.

    Comment by Anonymous Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:39 am

  3. Those pesky laws holding Rauner down…

    This is exactly “Rod Blagojevichian”.

    Rules really don’t matter, get the governor what he demands in the political. Rauner has the means to make it so.

    Dear Owl Sandack,

    You beat Uihlein, now you are at the bidding of Rauner and Uihlein, how do you feel about this?

    You could have been your own man. You chose your “own” out of fear. These are your “sponsors”, using Rod’s playbook with the money only Rod dreamed of.

    Comment by Oswego Willy Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:41 am

  4. Maybe that’s what he meant by “shakin’ up Springfield”! Just buy whatever he wants outright and screw any laws about donations, contributions, etc. New ways of doin’ public business! Get rid of those pesky restrictions.

    Comment by AnonymousOne Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:42 am

  5. Well, Dan Proft is a top advisor to Uihlein, so you can see how things could get screwed up.

    Uihlein is a laugh riot. Takes the Wisconsin corporate welfare to put a warehouse there, but lives in Illinos to avoid the Cheesehead 7.96 percent progressive rate.

    Comment by Wordslinger Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:43 am

  6. Hat tip on this from one of your commenters, Rich. Someone brought it ip on your blog. Glad Bernie reads the blog.

    Comment by Anonymous Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:46 am

  7. ===Someone brought it ip on your blog===

    Interesting. I didn’t see that one. Hmm.

    Comment by Rich Miller Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:46 am

  8. Someone mentioned that state agencies buy their office supplies, paper, etc from Uline.

    Comment by Anonymous Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:49 am

  9. Same stuff, different day, bigger bank account.

    Comment by JS Mill Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:50 am

  10. In all fairness, it seems like an oversight given the size of state business received (and the timing), the amount of the donation and the size of the company. Dems should be cautious about overplaying their hand with this one today and this week. Some good via necessary procurement reform may result from this.

    Comment by Bedbug Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:52 am

  11. Note to Bedbug-
    It is a blatant disregard for state ethics laws.
    And it is an absolute slap to the face of union workers - who place orders for Uline products - since Uihlein publicly professes that a major reason for supporting Rauner is that he is anti-union.

    Comment by Austin Blvd Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:59 am

  12. The similarities to Blago are increasing on a daily basis

    Comment by Former Merit Comp Slave Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 9:59 am

  13. As described, Rauner’s recruitment activities appear likely on the right side of the rules (to the extent they exist) governing Independent Expenditures.

    Of course, the fact that this type of thing could be anywhere close to legal is the real scandal.

    Comment by Sam Weinberg Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:02 am

  14. Just last week Rauner was critical of Madigan and Cullerton, suggesting that they were crooks and claiming inaccurately that law firms they are associated with benefit from high property taxes. What’s that they say about don’t throw stones..

    Clearly it is a violation of state ethics law for Rauner to accept money from Uihlein. There is a pattern here in which Rauner flouts existing laws and sits back to see if the courts will stop him. I’m reminded of a line in the song Won’t Get Fooled Again, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

    Comment by The Dude Abides Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:02 am

  15. If you are going to donate a million bucks you should be smart enough to spend a couple of grand on an attorney to make sure it is legal. No sympathy fornRauner or Uline here.

    Comment by Guzzlepot Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:03 am

  16. campaigns on both sides make these mistakes, maybe not in the $2million range, but this stuff happens.. a lot of other things to beat up the 2nd floor over, this is just a little white noise..

    Comment by Not Rich Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:04 am

  17. Ethics? Did anyone seriously believe that a guy with the fortune he has amassed buys into ethics?

    Comment by AnonymousOne Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:05 am

  18. ===…a lot of other things to beat up the 2nd floor over, this is just a little white noise..===

    Ok. a $2 million mistake is “white noise”.

    Wow. I want that mistake…

    Comment by Oswego Willy Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:05 am

  19. “My donors are basically taxpayers. My donors are taxpayers. And the reality is…”

    When your lie has to have three ramp-ups before it can be launched - it is a pig too fat to fly.

    Comment by VanillaMan Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:11 am

  20. Was this personal money or company money? Does that make a difference?

    “. . . Uline, a packaging supply company now based in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.”

    I realize that Pleasant Prairie is just across the border, but maybe he should move those jobs back to Illinois.

    Comment by JoanP Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:14 am

  21. This only seems like a big deal because nobodies like us think TWO MILLION DOLLARS is a lot of money — but to the Rauner class, this is just a minor error.

    – MrJM

    Comment by MrJM Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:19 am

  22. JoanP, Uihlein took the corporate welfare from Gov. Walker to put the warehouse in Sun Prairie.

    That’s what passes for free market, small government, conservative capitalists in some bizarro minds.

    Comment by Wordslinger Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:19 am

  23. That $2 million can help with the political budget cuts announced by the Gov.

    Comment by Norseman Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:23 am

  24. So does that mean he’ll only be targeting 18 Democrats?

    On the other hand, I’m sure Diana finds more than $2 million in wadded up bills whenever she does his laundry.

    Comment by 47th Ward Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:28 am

  25. A little “white noise” here and a little “white noise” there. Pretty soon, it gets…..noisy.

    Comment by a drop in Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:33 am

  26. This is not a trivial mistake, and not a trivial law. It was put into place to prevent private companies from buying state contracts via campaign contributions.

    Uihlein himself should have know better than to put his business at risk. It is common knowledge among state contractors I’ve met to stay away from campaign donations.

    Comment by walker Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:35 am

  27. Is it too much to ask for another 4 or 5 billion of these?

    Comment by Timmeh Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:42 am

  28. Can’t the vendor be sanctioned as well - debarment or something?

    Comment by Joe Bidenopolous Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:53 am

  29. @47th Ward -

    No way in the world Diana does the laundry at their house(s).

    Comment by JoanP Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 10:55 am

  30. The BGA is all over this!


    Comment by walker Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 11:03 am

  31. Get the Uline catalog in the mail; use to flip through it just to see what they offer-this will be a time -saver for me now-direct to the recycle pile…

    Comment by downstate commissioner Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 11:10 am

  32. So a business doing business with the state is not a “special interest”????

    Comment by burbanite Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 11:13 am

  33. How is this not just plain illegal? This doesn’t merely “appear to contradict” Rauner, it looks like most certainly is or was lying.

    Comment by Albany Park Patriot Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 11:14 am

  34. I could be wrong, but wasn’t this general issue (of Rauner collecting contributions from State vendors) raised months ago by an Internet journo named David Sirota?

    Comment by Arthur Andersen Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 11:48 am

  35. It’s curious timing that Matt Brown wasn’t reappointed as the CPO.

    Comment by Demoralized Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 11:59 am

  36. TeamBungle been tryin’ to too Matt Brown for months…now it might look bad
    Speaking of sleezy campaign spending Sen Connelly apparently joins Rep Butler is getting mail service restored He report his $4K rental payment from Team Bungle…Butler “reported” his $8K over the weekend.
    Wonder is all their donors are taxpayers too?
    Guessin’ this is the line most likely to stick in the mind of every non billionaire in IL.
    If you are worker, pay taxes and make a donation can you skip obeyin’ pther laws?

    Comment by Anonin' Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 1:14 pm

  37. BTW Uihlein just dropped $10K on the Chicago Republican Party….Is Proft on summer break?

    Comment by Anonin' Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 1:26 pm

  38. “My donors are taxpayers” And they don’t like it a bit.

    Comment by kimocat Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 2:12 pm

  39. I thought of Glenn Brunk stationers when I read this. I go by their closed building all the time. I was waiting for flag world to close but they went first.

    Comment by sad Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 3:59 pm

  40. First of all, Rauner is one of those politicians who have had to pay back donations. In addition to the ones mentioned in the article, it takes some digging through the quarterly reports on the elections board website but I found around $15,000 in expenditures to the State for repayment of contributions.

    Secondly, Joe Bidenopolous, if I remember the Procurement Code correctly, contracts can be voided, and if there are more than 3 contributions in 36 months then the contracts will be voided and the vendor can’t bid for 3 years.

    Comment by MyTwoCents Monday, Jun 15, 15 @ 5:05 pm

  41. It was on Uihlein to register as an ineligible donor with the state board of elections. Uline did not. (from WCIA)
    AND - to the guy who says it’s a slap in the face bec union empl/st workers have to order Uline products. So what? He provides a product/service and the State is the employer-hmmm, boss. Some people do things they don’t think they should have to do to have a job. (Gasp what about the employee who perhaps doesn’t support or isn’t part of a union and might have to deal with ordering through a union shop??? Oh the horrors! Generally conservatives whine less though.) Ordering $70,000 statewide from all those union employees is really peanuts.

    Comment by LP Tuesday, Jun 16, 15 @ 7:23 am

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