The Mitt Romney of Illinois politics is Bruce Rauner. It is Bruce Rauner who would like to be the next governor of Illinois in the worst way. It appears that is just how he is attempting to become the next governor, In the worst way: Buying his way into the governor's office. The similarities to the failed Mitt Romney campaign for president in 2012 are striking.
Like Romney, Rauner has used money to buy influence and power. Although Rauner is a political novice, he has spent the better part of three decades hob knobbing with political people. Rauner has nurtured many friendships with politicians.
Rauner has donated to them and found them lucrative jobs, and in many cases Rauner collected in-kind payment for those donations.
Rauner founded GTCR in 1980 (the "R" is for Rauner), which is a private equity firm. Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984 and both are private equity firms that invest in companies to turn them around.
Rauner's company also managed various pension funds for three decades, including funds in Illinois. GTCR has reaped millions from the management of those funds. Inexplicably, Rauner opposed the recently passed and signed by the governor in Illinois pension reform bill.
Rauner favors a 401k plan widely used in private industry for state workers going forward. The new pension law does allow for a 401k plan, but it is optional for future state workers.
One of the difficult campaign issues for Romney in the 2012 campaign, and what scored points in favor of Obama was the accusation that Romney was a "job destroyer" and not a "job creator."
Resonating in Illinois, a case in point was a company that Bain Capital took control. The company, Sensata Technologies, was purchased by Bain in 2006 and the Illinois plant in Freeport, was promptly closed and Bain let go of 165 workers. The 165 Illinois jobs were shipped to China.
Romney's Bain Capital firm reaped millions from the transaction, seemingly not caring about the human cost.
Ironically, Governor Pat Quinn came to the defense of the workers in Freeport at that time.
The question for Rauner: Is there a Freeport lurking in Rauner's background? The chances are very good there are. There is little doubt that Quinn's opposition research is already on it.
Similar to Rauner, Romney left the firm he founded in 2001 to run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and shortly thereafter to run for governor of Massachusetts. Romney was elected, but only served one term as he turned his attention to his real goal, President of the United States.
Rauner retired from GTCR last October of 2012 to explore his run for governor. Rauner didn't want his running the business to be a "conflict of interest." He knows how to game the system, despite his lack of political experience.
Rauner is a money-raising machine, starting with his own self-funding. He differs from other wealthy self-funders in that he raises money from others. Since he self-funded, there are no limits on contributions.
Whether Rauner wants to enroll a child into an impossible to get into exclusive Chicago public high school.
The same person does make government work for himself and for his family, for example, when Rauner wanted to enroll his daughter into Chicago's finest public high school.
As Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business reported last year, Rauner's daughter tested to enroll in Walter Payton College Prep High School, which is the respectively ranked second and 45th-best, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The school has roughly 200 slots available, with typically 7,000 applicants. Clout-heavy Rauner's daughter was turned down at first, but a man like Rauner gets what he wants. He would do what any entitled person would do.
He made a phone call, and a man like Rauner only needs to make one phone call. His calls get returned.
In 2008, Rauner made that phone call to then-CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Arnie Duncan, for some help to beat the odds. Duncan's aide called the principal and poof, his daughter was enrolled in Walter Payton College Prep High School.
There was a small problem however, that needed to be overcome and it cost money. In order to enroll your child in a Chicago Public School, a parent had to reside in the city of Chicago. No small problem for Rauner, in spite of the fact his residence was Winnetka, Illinois. Rauner simply bought a house just a few city blocks from Chicago's Magnificent Mile, walking distance to the new school.
Presumably, Rauner official residence was the home in Chicago while his child was attending the school.
CPS Inspector General James Sullivan looked into the case. Mr. Sullivan left the office on June 30, 2014, and freely discussed the case with AP. Sullivan told The Associated Press on Thursday that Rauner didn't use the formalized principals' process. CPS policy says that principals of selective high schools can use discretion for up to 5 percent of incoming freshmen.
Sullivan said Rauner contacted then-CEO Arne Duncan's office, according to Crain's Chicago Business, had at least two conversations with a chief aide, and the admission status was changed after the aide called the principal. "She's a very bright kid. She was close and just didn't make it," Sullivan said of the initial rejection. For exclusive schools such as Walter Payton, numerous factors including race, grades, attendance and test scores are considered.
In the case of Bruce Rauner, it was money and influence that turned the tables for his daughter. Plus a $250,000 donation to a Walter Payton College Prep initiative in 2009 from Rauner didn't hurt.