CHICAGO - The Godfather is making it official, sort of. According to sources, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is telling insiders that he wants his friend, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner ― not former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley ― to be the next governor of Illinois.
There’s only one problem: Rauner is running as a Republican in the GOP primary next March. The multi-millionaire has been banking impressive political contributions from out-of-state donors but claims he is just a down-to-earth political “outsider” who is willing to take on Illinois’ corrupt pay-to-play system.
“It will take an outsider to do it,” claims Rauner, whose Facebook ads claim he enjoys Harleys, hunting, and milking cows.
As Democratic party boss, Emanuel won’t be able to publicly endorse Rauner. He also owes Daley, now a Democratic candidate for governor, who helped engineer Emanuel’s path to mayoral victory in 2011, and there is little doubt that Daley will be calling in his chits.
That was part of the original deal-swap: Emanuel gets Chicago, President Obama taps Daley for White House Chief of Staff.
But if Daley and Rauner win their respective primaries, it’s a still a win-win for Emanuel. Either way, he gets his guy in the Illinois governor’s mansion.
In a state so pervasively controlled by the Democrat machine, is it far-fetched to think Emanuel put Rauner up to the Republican run?
No, it isn’t far-fetched and that is what troubles GOP insiders, i.e., the ones Rauner hasn’t contributed money to in the past year.
Of course, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the other Republican candidates, including Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Sen. Kirk Dillard, are still standing in Emanuel’s fishy way.
Tactically, one might think Rauner wouldn’t be too happy about the “unofficial” burst of public affection from City Hall. Arguably, Emanuel is not a selling point with GOP primary voters, especially as Obamacare mandates begin to be implemented.
Emanuel’s pivotal role in Obamacare’s passage has neither been forgiven nor forgotten by Republican voters.
So why would Emanuel go out of his way to publicly leak his affection for Rauner?
Because Rauner’s close ties to Emanuel have already become an issue in the Illinois governor’s race, and with good reason. After all, how do you hide a twenty-year financial and personal relationship with Emanuel and other Democrats?
As the political maxim says, “Hang a lantern on your problem.”
From a Republican standpoint, Rauner’s history with Emanuel is particularly troubling. In April, the Washington Times Communities reported:
“Rauner’s firm’s purchase of SecurityLink from SBC Ameritech was one of the first big deals Rahm Emanuel put together after his sudden conversion to investment banker in the 1990s. The SBC deal would not have happened but for Rahm’s insider connections to the Clinton White House.
“According to the Chicago Tribune at the time, a Clinton-era regulatory deadline would have forced SBC to divest itself of SecurityLink. Instead, SBC financed all but $100 million of GTCR’s $479 million purchase of the firm. GTCR, under Rauner’s leadership, resold the company for $1 billion, earning a quick $500 million on its investment less than six months later.
“In a two-year stint, Rahm picked up $16.2 million in fees and was made managing director of the investment banking firm Wasserstein Perella. No experience required. Emanuel had never had a job outside of politics before. Rauner has been a close friend, key advisor, and donor to Emanuel ever since.
“But that wasn’t to be Rauner’s first encounter with Democrat pay-to-play politics.
“Reports have been surfacing about Rauner’s contributions to Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. According to Crain’s, Rauner sent Rendell a check for $200,000 in 2001 after meeting with his aides in Chicago. Just before the election Rendell received another $100,000 check.
“According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rauner’s firm was already managing $110 million in pension funds for the State Employee Retirement System in Pennsylvania before the election. After Rendell became governor, the state doubled its stake in GTCR funds to $226 million, earning the firm more than $4 million in fees.
“Campaign finance records reveal that Rauner and his wife are long time major contributors to Democrats and Democrat party committees. The Rauners have continued to use that paid political clout to their advantage.”
A Crain’s Chicago Business report in April revealed that in 2008, Rauner allegedly called Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, pulling strings to get his daughter into Walter Payton College Preparatory High School after her application had been rejected. Duncan’s secret clout list of VIPs attempting to get their kids into Chicago’s top schools was obtained by FOIA request and Rauner’s name was on it. Walter Payton Prep is considered to be the city’s most elite high school.
Insider? There’s more.
Rauner’s board of campaign advisors also includes Citadel’s Ken Griffin, another mega donor to Emanuel. Griffin and his wife, Anne, contributed more than $200,000 to Emanuel’s mayoral campaign in 2011. Griffin, who calls himself a “Reagan Republican,” also bundled more than $200,000 for Barack Obama in 2008. In the same election year, he donated to John McCain’s presidential campaign. Anne Griffin is a former executive with Soros Funds.
According to the Chicago Reader, the contributions have bought Griffin regular hour-long private meetings with Emanuel. The Mayor’s recent financial disclosures also reveal the Griffins have given him financial “gifts.”
Griffin’s Citadel was recently identified as “Hedge Fund A” in the federal indictment of hedge fund manager Steven Cohen of SAC Capital, and allegations of insider trading are swirling. A Citadel spokesperson has denied the charge.
So Rauner’s claim to political outsider status is disingenuous, if not ridiculous. If anything, Rauner’s history proves he is Rahm’s “outsider.”
Whether that proves fatal to Rauner’s candidacy will be left to the GOP voters to decide next March.