CHICAGO - Illinois' First Lady Diana Rauner is actively involved in her husband's policy and personnel decisions, according to inside sources. And because Mrs. Rauner's opinion is so powerful, her private communications to staff about a bill Governor Rauner signed into law requiring Illinois taxpayers to fund low income and state employee abortions could become public.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Governor Rauner's former deputy chief of staff of communications Diana Rickert is suing the governor for access to emails surrounding the decision-making on HB 40 earlier this year. Rickert is requesting particularly Mrs. Rauner's communications on the topic be made public.
Rickert ... asked for emails to and from Diana Rauner from June 1, 2017 that include the following terms: “abortion, HB40, reproductive rights, Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood, Terry Cosgrove.” The request included a personal email address, a state email address and one from her role with the Ounce of Prevention.
The Sun-Times has already obtained a number of emails that substantiate Mrs. Rauner's direction to her husband's staff. Like Rickert, the Sun-Times is requesting more access to Mrs. Rauner's communications.
Mrs. Rauner's position on abortion was well known before her husband was elected in 2014. She reminded abortion supporters in an email how she and her husband had generously donated to pro-abortion groups over the years, and that her husband and she were both "pro-choice" on the issue.
Mrs. Rauner signed onto and promoted an ad that ran in the Chicago Tribune prior to the 2014 General Election saying:
Despite the IL GOP and national Republican party's staunch pro-life position in their platforms, "Having a pro-choice Republican candidate is a major advance for our issue here in Illinois and nationwide," the ad said.
Among those signing the ad letter was Mrs. Rauner.
But, Mrs. Rauner insisted in a campaign ad before the 2014 IL GOP Primary that her husband had "no social agenda."
Those Republicans competing with Rauner in the 2014 IL GOP primary for the party's nomination were all pro-life and the state's social conservatives divided their votes among them, leaving Rauner to win as the most liberal on the abortion issue.
Rauner clearly stated his only concerns about abortion rights was that there should be a parental notification before minors were to undergo abortions.
Yet when asked in the Spring of 2017 if he would sign taxpayer funding of abortions into law, his administration first released a statement saying he would veto HB 40. But when the bill was delayed being sent to him, it became clear negotiations behind the scenes were taking place.
The abortion rights group Personal PAC released a copy of Rauner's pre-election statement saying he would not support further restrictions on abortion and called the governor a liar for suggesting he would veto HB 40.
That time frame is the same that Diana Rickert is seeking access to Mrs. Rauner's communications with the governor's staff - and asking for any emails that mention abortion-related topics.
What those emails contain and the impact Mrs. Rauner had on her husband's decision could be learned if and when the court makes those emails public.