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Bruce Rauner makes false claim Chicago Tribune 'dismissed' Stuart Levine charges

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Bruce Rauner released another ad on Friday in response to the devastating ad produced by the Illinois Freedom PAC that links Rauner to Springfield insider, the federally convicted Stuart Levine.

The ad that runs for thirty-seconds is deliberately and blatantly false.

With Rauner's voice in the background, the ad claims: "You've seen the false attacks from Pat Quinn's allies and the Springfield insiders. The Tribune looked at these charges and dismissed them."

Chicago Tribune did no such thing.

Rauner has yet to conclusively prove his claim, and to say that the Chicago Tribune exonerated him and "dismissed" the Stuart Levine charges doesn't fly.

Why did Stuart Levine get paid $25,000 per month, or $300,000 per years, part of that payment coming from Rauner's GTCR firm? When did Levine start the contract and when did it end. Under what conditions did the contract end?

Was there a buyout? Did Rauner's GTCR firm contribute to the buyout?

Stuart Levine was the ultimate Springfield insider and political fixer, who is now a federal felon, serving 5 1/2 years for money laundering and fraud. Federal district court Judge Amy St. Eve called out Levine for using his seat on the Illinois Health Facilities Planning board to shake down hospitals for kickbacks. And he ran similar swindles as a member of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) board, a $40 billion dollar fund.

Huffington Post says that while Stuart Levine did not testify at former Governor Rod Blagojevich's trial, former U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner gives him substantial credit for evidence that led to the conviction the Blagojevich 14-year corruption conviction. "Mr. Levine was a historic cooperator," Niewoehner said, adding that those he helped convict deserved to be in "a hall of fame of ... corruption."

He is the corrupt Springfield insider who testified against Springfield power broker William Cellini and Antonin "Tony" Rezko. Levine also wore a wire against former Chicago alderman and ultimate political insider "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak. It was Levine's undercover work in the case that resulted in Vrdolyak's guilty plea that sent this elusive target to jail.

In fact, the Chicago Tribune has yet to see the documentation needed that will exonerate Rauner. Nor has Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business or anyone else for that matter.

But other reporters, including this one, have questioned whether Mr. Rauner really didn't know he was paying Mr. Levine at the same time that Mr. Rauner personally solicited investment work from a huge state pension fund on whose board Mr. Rauner served.

The issue is whether Levine's hiring "predated" GTCR's acquisition something that Rauner claims but cannot or will not document.

Where is the actual hiring contract, which was extended to Levine?

Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business asked Levine that very question in his interview with Rauner, which he published on Jan. 27, 2014, after some ten months of asking questions about Levine and Rauner.

Rauner again claimed he "didn't know Levine" and that GTCR got the work strictly because it produced good returns. "I didn't have 'a relationship' with Levine. I didn't know him," Mr. Rauner told Hinz. "I didn't interact with him. What I've been told is that he was an employee of a company in which we had a minority interest."

Hinz was nearly convinced when Rauner claimed "Mr. Levine's original hiring by the medical firm predates GTCR's acquisition of the company by at least a year."

But . . .

Rauner can't or won't prove it because, unfortunately, "he does not have access to the actual Levine hiring contract, which was extended by a company that no longer exists."

He also told Hinz that he could not "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."

The interview was revealing in another sense about an admitted "misstatement" on Rauner's part. Rauner was challenged by his GOP primary rivals in a recent forum to explain his ties to Levine, and Rauner not only said he didn't know of Mr. Levine in 2003, but that GTCR had "worked for the teachers retirement system for 30 years in Illinois."

The implication is that GTCR wouldn't need Mr. Levine to pull strings on the TRS board.

Of course GTCR did need that contract.

Another "misstatement." According to TRS spokesman Dave Urbanek, GTRC got no work from TRS, not one penny, until January 2000, six months before Mr. Levine joined the board. The initial commitment of $52.2 million quickly grew before Mr. Levine resigned from the board in mid-2004.

"That was a misstatement on my part," Rauner told Hinz apologetically. What he "really" meant was GTCR did work for other state pension funds dating back 30 years. However, GTCR didn't have the track record to get the TRS contract in 2000, so it is clear he needed to get a foot in the door.

Was Stuart Levine that 'foot in the door?'

Hinz doesn't come to a conclusion, asking that you decide. He says, "And maybe it's possible that Bruce Rauner didn't know that Stuart Levine was making $300,000 a year from one of Mr. Rauner's firms when Mr. Rauner pitched the TRS board for pension work."

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax piece on Stuart Levine and Bruce Rauner, "Tribune headline: 'Records cast doubt on any strong link between GOP candidate, convicted power broker,'" is also worth reading on this subject. The reader should judge for themselves on this objective evaluation.

Back to the Illinois Freedom PAC ad.

Michael Murray, spokesman for Illinois Freedom PAC, said that Rauner responded so quickly, because it’s obvious we "struck a nerve by pointing out his ties to the very Springfield-insiders he likes to rally against."

Murray went on, "Rauner has bragged about his hands on approach to managing his businesses, and claims that experience qualifies him to be governor. Except when it comes to Stuart Levine."

Murray disputes the claims that Rauner had "no idea who one of his highest paid employees was or what he was doing."

Murray questions whether Rauner is lying about the way he "runs his businesses and insider connections with their back room deals?"

Murray ends by saying that "It is clear that middle class families can’t trust Bruce Rauner."

All Rauner needs to do is produce the "actual hiring contract" of Stuart Levine. And the termination package of the contract. Surely, GTCR has some record, somewhere of this relationship. There is one man that knows, aside from Bruce Rauner.

Stuart Levine.

***

Sources:

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax - New TV ad attacks Rauner, ties him to Stu Levine

Crain’s Chicago Business - Rauner airs counter ad zapping union attack on him

Crain's Chicago Business - Greg Hinz interview with Bruce Rauner

Chicago Sun Times - Natasha Korecki, Stuart Levine star witness

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax - Rauner tries to walk it back

Allvoices.com - Bruce Rauner's unanswered question

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Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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