Longtime Chicago Sun Times political reporter Dave McKinney has decide to resign from his job amid allegations that Bruce Rauner’s campaign interfered with his reporting on a controversial story.
McKinney along with NBC5’s Carol Marin and Don Moseley reported on allegations made by a former Rauner employee who said in a deposition that Rauner used hardball tactics at one of his investment companies, LeapSource.
The former CEO alleged in a lawsuit that Rauner threatened her personally.
“If you go legal on us, we’ll hurt you and your family,” the CEO said that Rauner said about her.
The Rauner campaign pushed back vigorously before the story aired.
On Wednesday McKinney revealed that prior to publication, the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block the story.
... including having campaign staffers vowing to “go over” our heads. We are accustomed to such tactics.
But what does not come with the territory is a campaign sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece–rife with errors–about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation.
Yes, Ann does political consulting work for Democrats. But she has not been involved in the Illinois’ governor’s race and has focused on out-of-state campaigns. She and her business partner have gone to great lengths to prevent potential conflicts of interest, including creating a legally binding firewall that prevents Ann from participating in, strategizing in, or financially benefiting from the Illinois governor’s race. For that work, her partner formed a separate corporation with its own bank account that didn’t involve Ann in any way. In January, before we were even married, I presented this information to Sun-Times management and received approval in writing to move forward.”
McKinney notes that he was “yanked" from his beat, but after he contacted former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate the matter, he was reinstated.
But McKinney found he was not permittedwork the way he had for decades. During his first day back on the job, he was pulled from writing a follow up the original Rauner story.
The final straw, McKinney said, was the Sun Times' decision to reverse its three-year-old no endorsement policy and endorse Rauner whom McKinney sees as “the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun Times management had declared as a defamatory attack on me.”
Sun Times publisher Jim Kirk addressed the resignation in an emailed statement.
“It is with reluctance that I accept Dave McKinney’s resignation. As recently as this Monday on our Op/Ed page, I stated that Dave is among the best in our profession. I meant it then and I mean it now. The pause we took last week was to ensure there were no conflicts of interest and was taken simply to protect Dave McKinney, the Sun Times and its readers as we were under attack in a heated political campaign. We came to the right result, found the political attacks against us to be false and we stand by our reporting, our journalists and this great newspaper. I disagree with Dave's questioning the integrity of this newspaper and my role as editor and publisher. I call the shots. While I've been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper.”
The Rauner campaign released a statement from spokesman Chip Englander who doubled down.
"While we disagreed with him on this matter, we are saddened to see Dave leave the Sun-Times. We wish him the best."