Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business has been pounding Bruce Rauner, the frontrunner in the Republican gubernatorial race, for months about his relationship (or non-relationship) with Stuart Levine. Rich Miller's Capitol Fax reported today that Rauner agreed to talk to Hinz.
Who is Stuart Levine?
He was the ultimate Springfield insider and political fixer, who is now a federal felon. It was his testimony against Springfield power broker William Cellini and Antonin "Tony" Rezko that sent them to federal prison. Levine also wore a wire against a former Chicago alderman, and ultimate political insider, "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak. Vrdolyak's pleaded guilty.
Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business poses a question: "How can Mr. Rauner be trusted to clean up corrupt Springfield when he won't fully explain how and why Mr. Levine made $25,000 a month trying to get government business for a company owned in part by Mr. Rauner?"
Crain's Chicago Business political editor Greg Hinz reported that in 2003, Stuart Levine was on the Illinois Teachers' Retirement Board first tabled then approved a "$50 million investment from the giant pension fund" for GTCR.
The bid stalled at the board's Feb. 2003 meeting after Levine objected but then was zipped through in May of that year, Rauner attended a board meeting and Rauner received approval. Little is known about the flip, but given Levine's history and Rauner's aggressiveness, questions and eyebrows are being raised.
Was the $25,000 a month "consulting" contract Levine received from CompBenefits Corp, just a sophisticated "bribe" from Rauner and GTCR to "secure" GTCR's contract to run the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System? This fact came out during the 2008 trial of Rezko.
Hinz thought he was going to get an answer, when Rauner finally agreed to a face-to-face interview after numerous requests from Hinz.
What was his (Rauner's) relationship with this notorious "con man" that help put away so many prominent Illinois politicians?
Hinz credited Rauner with sitting down with him for tea and answering all his questions. Rauner explained to Hinz, "Levine's original hiring by the medical firm predates GTCR's acquisition of the company by at least a year," he said. If that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, "It strengthens his case that Mr. Levine wasn't fixing things for GTCR."
That would be "game, set and match" as far as the Stuart Levine matter and Rauner could move on to more important issues in the campaign to get the Republican nomination.
But . . .
"Mr. Rauner said he does not have access to the actual Levine hiring contract, which was extended by a company that no longer exists," he told Hinz. "Nor could he (Rauner) provide a copy of Mr. Levine's departure agreement in 2004 or 2005 — after Mr. Levine was indicted on federal corruption charges — or say whether Mr. Levine received any financial settlement."
In other words, "game, set and match" is a bit premature.
In other words, Bruce Rauner can say anything he wants about whether he knew Levine, or if he was aware of this $25,000 a month fee.
At a recent debate, State Senator Bill Brady pushed Rauner on his ties to Stuart Levine and accused Rauner of not coming clean on the $25,000-a-month contract with Levine. "You can’t avoid it. You can’t advertise your way out of it, Bruce," Brady said.
Rauner emphatically said he didn't know Levine and didn’t have any dealings with him. Rauner also denied that the money paid to Levine was a bribe.
"Oh my goodness it’s pure baloney," Rauner said in reaction to Brady.
It sure is beginning to sound like some "pure baloney." The question is which side is passing out the "pure baloney."
Other Allvoices related pieces about Bruce Rauner by John Presta:
Chicago Business - Rauner interview
Chicago Business - Political fixer Stuart Levine
Chicago Sun Times - Natasha Korecki, Stuart Levine star witness
Capitol Fax - Rauner tries to walk it back
Chicago Sun Times - Voices - Newly surfaced video
Chicago Sun Times - Voices (Rauner video)
Capitol Fax - Rauner kicks in another million bucks
Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, email@example.com.