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Bruce Rauner links to another pay-to-play, gives Stuart Levine story credibility

Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business broke a story yesterday that Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for Governor of Illinois, made 11 political contributions starting in 2000 through a company he partly owned and directed. The political contributions were to then Cook County Board President John Stroger's campaign fund (Citizens for Stroger), and to the 8th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, which supported both John Stroger and his son, then 8th Ward Ald. (later Cook County Board President) Todd Stroger.

Bruce Rauner prepares to speak on March 4, 2014 at a public forum at the David and Reva Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

While the "political contributions" were not large (Hinz reports they were a bit under $8,000), the implication is that following these series of political contributions, Rauner was awarded a series of multi-million dollar Cook County contracts over a period of four years. In addition to the 11 political contributions to the Strogers, Rauner also made a $5,000 donation to the Democratic Party of Illinois controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Hinz reports that according to a 1999 filing with the Florida Secretary of State, Rauner was one of only four names listed on an application to do business. He was one of two directors (the other also from GTCR), with others serving as CEO and president. Hinz said, "HealthRev hit the ground running as the Cook County Board, with John Stroger presiding, approved a three-year pact with the company giving it a cut of any Medicaid collections it could make in the county's huge balance of charity care debt, according to the agenda for that meeting. The pact then was estimated to bring in about $1.2 million a year for HealthRev, Rauner's partly owned company."

Hinz further reports that the company did much better; the firm was paid $8.8 million between June 2000 and April 2003. It earned another $1.9 million after the contract was renewed late in 2002, with the bulk of that coming before it sold the company to another private group in 2004.

All in exchange for what appears to be a pay-to-play scheme, and a pattern and style of doing business on the part of Bruce Rauner.

As in other similar cases, Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf denied any connection, saying, "Bruce had no role in the contributions or knowledge of them. In fact, Bruce was one of Stroger's biggest adversaries and spent years trying to defeat Stroger and his top allies in Cook County government."

However, that opposition to Stroger came later when Rauner made big contributions to former Board member and current CEO of the CTA, Forest Claypool.

Rauner spokesperson Mike Schrimpf made similar denials concerning Rauner's relationship with another despised figure in Illinois politics. Rauner himself denied a relationship with Stuart Levine, a federal felon serving 5 1/2 years for money laundering and fraud. Levine was on the payroll of a company owned by Rauner, but Rauner told Hinz that he didn't know the felon and fixer, Stuart Levine. In fact, Levine was paid $25,000 a month by Rauner's GTCR firm, at the very time the firm was asking a state pension board, on which Mr. Levine then served as a board member, to give it a large allotment of pension investments in the millions of dollars. Rauner claimed he never met the man and deliberately struggles at the sound of his name, despite the fact he is asked about it continually.

In another similar event, Rauner wrote big checks to then Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell because they shared a love of school reform, not because GTCR wanted a piece of Pennsylvania's lucrative state pension investment management business. But it turned out that Rauner got the pension business too.

Quinn's Illinois Deputy Press Secretary Izabela Miltko released a statement, saying in part, "Whether it's profiting off a conflict of interest with Stuart Levine or making $300,000 in campaign contributions to a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania that leads to more public pension business and $4 million in profits for his own firm, billionaire Bruce Rauner knows how to throw money around to get what he wants."

Quinn spokesperson Miltko added, "Now, we're finding that he threw around his money in Cook County in a pay-to-play Medicaid scheme of which he conveniently denies any knowledge. Not only are his pay-to-play methods part of a pattern; so, too, are his denials." Miltko added, "The latest revelation shows Bruce Rauner for exactly who he is: A billionaire who gamed the system to get rich while the rest of us play by a different set of rules."

The Chicago Examiner was unable to reach Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf for comment on the Quinn statement.