When it comes to making sure his agenda in Springfield succeeds in the coming weeks and months, it doesn't look like newly-elected governor Bruce Rauner will take any chances.
Illinois’ first Republican governor since 1998 has created a special $20 million war chest designed to help lawmakers get behind key legislative agenda items during Rauner’s first term. Rauner’s advisors paint the move as an effort to level the playing field against “special interests,”saying some lawmakers are going to need some help to make tough decisions down the road in supporting Rauner’s plans.
Transition team spokesman Chip Englander said Rauner wanted to change and improve Illinois.
“In order to do that, he recognizes that he has to amass the resources to support reformers and compete with the special interest protectors of the status quo in multiple forums over multiple years,” Englander said in a statement.
However, the move is seen by some as an effort by Rauner to use his personal wealth to influence policy, following his unprecedented personal spending during the campaign to win the governor’s seat. The billionaire equity investor spent $27 million of his own money during the run-up to the November elections.
Much like during the campaign, the latest amount is financed in part by wealthy individuals who have contributed millions to Rauner in the past.
Rauner, an equity investor, put $10 million of his personal funds into the latest effort. Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of the Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel, provided $8 million while Richard Uihlein, CEO of Uline Corp., added $2 million, according to state campaign finance reports.
And what may Rauner and his team do with the latest campaign windfall? If anything, it’s likely to be a way to let some lawmakers know that once the Rauner administration decides to announce exactly what it’s plans are to tackle tough issues like the budget and pension reform, $20 million can buy an awful lot of political cover to help lawmakers decide.
“It’s got to help give Republicans some backbone for the tough votes they’ll have to take,” said David Yepsen, who runs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. […]
“I think it can also be a shot across the bow that he’s not someone to be trifled with. He’s got the formal powers of governor, the informal powers of persuasion and he can shove money into a primary if a legislator doesn’t behave,” he said.