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Pension reform winner and loser: Gov. Pat Quinn the big winner, Bruce Rauner not

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The inevitable labeling of the "winners and losers" will come from the Illinois General Assembly’s passage yesterday of the historic comprehensive pension reform. So let's make it clear: Governor Pat Quinn is the "big" winner.

Taking an Illinois pension system, that admittedly was the "worst-funded among the 50 states," and suddenly transformed Illinois into a much more financially stable entity.

Others in Quinn's "winner" category are House Speaker Michael Madigan and his colleague in the Illinois Senate, President John Cullerton. Others deserving at least "honorable mention" are the members of the ten-person special committee, the Pensions Conference Committee. That would include Pensions Committee Chairman State Sen. Kwame Raoul and State Rep. Elaine Nekritz.

There are so many more winners, including organized labor that vow to take the fight to court. Organized labor conducted them admirably during a difficult situation.

The day's biggest loser stands out alone in the crowd, is without any doubt is multi-millionaire Bruce Rauner, who is desperately trying to buy the governor's mansion. Rauner supported adoption of a 401k setup for retirees.

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax reported that House Speaker Michael Madigan told WGN TV on his way out of the Statehouse about Bruce Rauner’s opposition to the pension reform bill. "I think he wants to blow up the issue and have nothing happen so that he’ll keep his campaign issue that he’s the outsider with the $18 watch who can change everything in state government."

Madigan was referring to Rauner's television commercial attempting to portray himself as a regular guy, down-to-earth and frugal. Rauner is earning the title, "The Mitt Romney of Illinois politics," did himself great damage during the "pension reform" debate.

The Chicago Sun Times disputed Rauner's claim that the bill is a gift to "big union bosses." Part of Rauner's shtick is attacking "public unions. “The Sun Times said that the bill: Kicks ordinary working people — secretaries, clerks, teachers and the like — in the teeth.

Rauner is coming off as dishonest, who will say or do anything to win.

The plan is backfiring on Rauner. He is clearly just another Illinois rich guy trying to buy an elected office, with no core or no souls, again much like that other multi-millionaire trying to buy an office, Mitt Romney.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, his official bio says, "Bruce has never let his success change him. He still drives a 20-year-old camper van, wears an $18 watch, and stays in the cheapest hotel room he can find when he's on the road."

The irony of all ironies is that much of Rauner's fortune was made managing public pension funds through his firm, GTCR LLC.

Rauner has for the past three decades invested in pension funds as a co-founder of GTCR LLC, a Chicago private-equity firm. Rauner even managed the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System and the Illinois State Board of Investment.

Rauner released his tax returns show he earned $53 million just in 2012 alone. Rauner owns eight homes. One of his eight homes across the country, from a 6,870-square-foot on a half-acre lot in Winnetka; two units, including a penthouse, in a luxury high-rise overlooking Millennium Park in downtown Chicago; a waterfront villa in the Florida Keys with a 72-foot-long pool; ranches in Montana and Wyoming; and a condo in an upscale Utah ski resort. Or even a penthouse in a landmark co-op building along New York's Central Park.

This should be a fun election, but first, Rauner will have to get past his Republican primary opponents to get a shot at Quinn.

That is where Rauner will now have the biggest problem. It had appeared prior to the vote yesterday that Rauner would roll over his opposition: State Sen. Kirk Dillard, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Sen. Bill Brady.

Dillard voted no. Rutherford didn't have a vote as State Treasurer, but said "no."

Brady voted "yes" and is the person that may have helped himself the most. Brady opposed Quinn in the last election and lost in a very close election.

The "inevitability" in the Republican Party of an easy Rauner victory is now over. Even if he wins, he could come out of the primary, badly beaten and bruised.

Even then, he would take on a rested and well-financed Quinn.

Advice to Rauner: Don't underestimate Quinn. The political landscape is littered with political corpses that thought Quinn was vulnerable. Bill Daley immediately comes to mind. Bill Brady knows too. Dan Hynes is another.

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

John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.

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