It always kind of surprises me whenever wildly successful businessmen who pride themselves on knowing every detail of their business forget key information when they run for political office.
Take Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. A quick look at his biography shows Rauner to be an extraordinarily accomplished gentleman. Not only does he hold a MBA from Harvard University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College, his resume is packed with the executive positions in some of the most successful financial firms in the country. As well, Rauner serves on the boards of literally dozens of private, public and nonprofit entities and organizations.
Yet, as he runs for governor, it turns out his business acumen doesn't extend to what his companies are doing whenever there’s a potentially shady backroom deal going on. As detailed by Crain’s Greg Hinz and others, Rauner has a history of working deals with politicians in a position to influence the awarding of contracts to his many companies while also saying later he had absolutely no idea what was going on.
In the most recent example, a number of firms owned in part or associated with Mr. Rauner gained millions of dollars in state contracts to handle Medicaid collections and almost immediately started making campaign contributions to key Illinois politicians, including House Speaker Mike Madigan and then-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.
But when questions started being asked later about the propriety of such donations, Rauner’s spokesperson, Mike Schrimpf, said the candidate simply “had no role in the contributions or knowledge of them. In fact, Bruce was one of Stroger's biggest adversaries and spent years trying to defeat Stroger and his top allies in Cook County government."
Of course, this isn’t the first time Rauner has forgotten or claims no knowledge of insider deals on government contracts. There was the time he said he didn't know convicted political fixer Stuart Levine was on the payroll of a company his venture capital firm partially owned that received millions of dollars in Illinois state pension work.
Or that episode in Pennsylvania, when he sent checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars to former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who later helped steer millions of dollars in state pension fund business to Rauner’s old firm GTCR.
And, for a while, he said he didn't remember the exact details of how his daughter got a coveted spot at one of Chicago’s most prestigious high school’s, even though he later wrote a $250,000 check to the school.
For a man who’s very reason for running is his experience as a smart, get-it-done business executive, he and his campaign are trying mightily to paint him as a guy who simply didn't know what was happening when deals were being made in his name.
Which is doubly ironic, since Rauner’s entire rationale in running for office is that he’s a political outsider who will use his business smarts to reform how politics are done in Springfield.
Which begs the question: If Rauner can’t remember or doesn't know how lucrative business deals with influential politicians are done that he benefits from, how can voters trust him once he gets the keys to the state treasury as governor?