Editor’s note: The following is the first in a series examining contributions made to candidates running in the Nov. 4 General Election. Other public officials whose seats are not up for re-election in November may also be featured in this series.
By Jim Hagerty
As the race for Illinois governor heats up, a look into campaign contributions of Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and opponent, GOP venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, sheds light on how both will position themselves for the November election.
Rauner has vowed to bust unions, a challenge Quinn will meet head on. According to the governor’s latest quarterly report, he’s armed with a $4.75 million war chest heavily padded by unions. Just some of that support includes $100,00 from the International Painters (IUPAT) PAC, $100,000 from the Laborer’s Union PAC and $150,000 from electrical union PAC (IBEW). Firefighters unions, in March 2014, kicked in $87,000 on top of $85,000 from the United Food and Commercial Works PAC, Ironworkers Union PAC and Laborers Political Education Fund PAC.
Quinn will likely rely on every penny, especially as he continues to drop in the polls, even among high-ranking Democrats. Many still chide the governor’s 67 percent increase in business taxes that sent thousands of companies elsewhere. Although Quinn will take credit for concealed carry, his pension reform efforts fell on deaf ears within the party.
Rauner spent more than $6 million of his own money campaigning for the primary and has all but sewn up GOP-heavy counties throughout metro Chicago.
Since Jan. 1, 2013, Rauner has raised more than $17 million in campaign funds. Recent contributions have come from representatives of BDT Capital ($78,000), North Star Investments ($35,000), BMO Harris Bank ($25,000) and various venture capital companies.
As of February, 50 individuals donated $25,000 more to Rauner’s campaign committee. Donors have included Eric Lefkofsky, CEO of Groupon; Richard Dennis, noted Wall Street trader; former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson; members of the Wrigley family; Alexander Stuart, of the Quaker Oats empire; Anthony Kerasotes, of Kerasotes Theaters; and members of the Crown family, which holds stakes in the Chicago Bulls, New York Yankees, Hilton Hotels, Rockefeller Center and others.
The April 2 Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission — which found limits on the amount of financial contributions individuals can make to political campaigns is unconstitutional — paves the way for both candidates to bask in pay-to-play schemes that could reach far and wide come November. This could be good news for Rauner, as his alleged ties to Blagojevich pal Stu Levine were duly noted in the primary.
According to a Feb. 11 ad opposing Rauner, Levine “voted to help Rauner’s firm get $50 million in state pension funds,” as reported by illinoistimes.com. Rauner claims while Levine voted for the deal, so did the GTRC board, leaving nothing to hide. Rauner claims the ad was a union-backed smear campaign. But that was before McCutcheon all but rendered such fallacy a powder-less keg.
In following the money, a trail leads to an economically strapped Illinois with lingering problems the largest mountains of cash haven’t been able to solve. While Quinn was left a mess made by Rod Blagojevich, the root of many of the state’s woes were decades in the making. As the election looms, Quinn’s $8.6 billion plan to fix roads, build bridges and add passenger rail routes is said to create close to 500,000 jobs — sweet music to union ears across the state. For Rauner, the plan is just another in a string of broken promises. Although he’s said little about the construction plan, Rauner has already ripped Quinn’s tax and education plans.
“Pat Quinn has broken his promises on pensions, on taxes, on education funding repeatedly,” Rauner said during an Illinois Education Association meeting that featured both candidates last week. “That’s a fact. You guys know it. We can all look it up.”
Quinn fired back, throwing a dagger at Rauner’s anti-union platform and pro-charter school agenda.
“The biggest threat to public education in the state of Illinois is my opponent,” Quinn said.
Following Rauner’s campaign money leads to a banking sector that could benefit greatly by dismantling unions and instituting more of a privatized pension system, which Rauner claims is good for Illinois. Rauner is in favor of allowing current public workers to keep current benefits, but would push for the state to move to a 401(k)-style pension plan.
Under Quinn’s plan, workers, excluding those in Chicago, have the option of participating in a 401(k) plan. It also centers on an array of changes, including raising the retirement age to 67 and restrictions on cost-of-living adjustments. Those 50 and older would miss one cost-of-living raise while those 43 and younger would miss five.
The result has been the We are One Illinois lawsuit, which accuses the state of pension theft.
“Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the State,” the lawsuit brought by the Union Coalition reads. “The State chose to forgo funding its pension systems in amounts the State now claims were needed to fully meet the State’s annuity obligations. Now, the State expects the members of those systems to carry on their backs the burden of curing the State’s longstanding misconduct. Specifically, Public Act 98-0599 unlawfully strips from public servants pension amounts to which they otherwise are entitled as a matter of law, let alone fundamental fairness.”
From the April 30-May 6, 2014 issue