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Illinois Freedom PAC: Bruce Rauner 'isn’t who he says he is,' politics as usual

Illinois Freedom PAC is a non-partisan coalition established to educate middle class voters about the issues at stake in the 2014 Illinois Gubernatorial election, and they want the electorate to become better educated about Bruce Rauner, a Republican candidate for governor of Illinois.

Labor unions funding a new campaign committee, Illinois Freedom PAC, have unveiled their first TV ad.
Labor unions funding a new campaign committee, Illinois Freedom PAC, have unveiled their first TV ad.(Freedom Illinois PAC)

Yesterday, Illinois Freedom PAC started a campaign to educate middle class voters about Bruce Rauner.

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax reported that Illinois Freedom PAC have unveiled their first TV ad, it asks the same question that Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business asked the "unanswered question" of Rauner.

Michael Murray, spokesman for Illinois Freedom PAC, talked to the Chicago Elections Examiner about the relationship between Bruce Rauner and Stuart Levine. "Bottom line is that Bruce Rauner isn’t who he says he is. He talks about 'shaking up Springfield,' but his high paid employee went to prison for shaking it down. That’s the same politics as usual that has been bleeding Illinois dry for decades."

Which leads to the following unanswered question by Bruce Rauner:

"What was your relationship with Stuart Levine?"

The question has yet to be answered by Rauner, and the Illinois Freedom PAC is reinforcing this question with a $1.2 million ad buy that they hope will counter Bruce Rauner’s candidacy, reports Natasha Korecki of the Chicago Sun Times.

Hinz has been asking, even begging for answers, asking Rauner to sit down and discuss the relationship between Rauner and Levine.

Hinz uncovered this relationship earlier this year and is still looking for an answer. The question Hinz poses is this: "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?"

Organized labor is asking the same question and wants answers from Rauner. The Illinois Freedom PAC has launched a hard-charging and effective ad campaign, which strikes back at Rauner who has taken on organized labor as the "bad guy" in his own well-financed ads.

Rauner has raised millions, reporting at the end of 2013 that he has raised $4 million dollars, much of it self-financed. Since Jan. 1, Rauner has reported raising millions more from self-financing and raising money from his friends in the private-equity business. Rich Miller reported that Rauner

Murray warns that Rauner is "poised to spend millions of dollars telling voters that he is a reformer ready to clean up Springfield, but what do Illinoisans really know about Bruce Rauner?" Murray answers his own question. "Not much. We want to make sure that voters have all the facts."

Organized labor is financing this ad campaign with support from the Illinois Freedom PAC, to the tune nearly $2 million dollars in contributions: 500k from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 PAC (AFSCME) 500k from Illinois Education Association (IEA), 250k from Illinois Federation of Teachers COPE (IFT), 500k from SEIU Illinois Council PAC Fund, Illinois PAC For Education (IPACE), and $500k from Illinois PAC For Education (IPACE).

Bruce Rauner "isn’t who he says he is," said Michael Murray, spokesman for Illinois Freedom PAC. "Rauner says he'd be a good Governor because he was such a good, hands-on businessman, but then pleads ignorance when it comes to one of his highest paid employees, Stuart Levine."

Rauner quickly responded to the ad and has cried foul. He released an ad of his own and claims that a "Chicago Tribune analysis finds no real link between Rauner, Levine."

"Not so," says Illinois Freedom PAC spokesperson Murray. "Mr. Rauner responded so quickly, it’s obvious we struck a nerve by pointing out his ties to the very Springfield-insiders he likes to rally against. 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 and CompDent."

Yes, Stuart Levine again.

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.

Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business, who finally did get his interview with Rauner, that 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.

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. 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."

Maybe it isn't possible.

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Sources:

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

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

Chicago Sun Times - Voices - Newly surfaced video

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax - Rauner kicks in another million bucks

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

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