As Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner prepares to assume office in mid-January, concerns are being raised over a potential conflict of interest involving his wife, Diana, and her job at a nonprofit partly dependent upon state money.
Diana Rauner heads up Ounce of Prevention, which aims to improve early childhood education especially for kids born in poverty. The incoming First Lady of Illinois has served as president since 2011 following stints on the board and as an executive director.
According to Crain's Chicago Business, the nonprofit (annual budget: $50 million) received $14.2 million in state funding in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
"It's going to appear that it's doing well because she's pulling strings," DePaul University ethics professor Patricia Werhane tells the paper, adding: "She should give up that position."
The "should she" question is bound to continue as Diana—under growing pressure—weighs whether to remain in an unpaid role she enjoys or step down to avoid headlines such as this one in addition to a snowball effect of ethical eye-brow-raising. (Case in point: The idea that Ounce would become flush with donations from those seeking Rauner's ear in Springfield.)
For now, she's staying put and the organization is taking action to buttress its president from allegations of impropriety.
"There are no ethical issues," maintains Ounce representative Megan Meyer, telling Crain's that Diana will not directly lobby lawmakers on fundraising matters.
A Rauner rep said in a statement that the incoming administration "will ensure that the Ounce will receive no special treatment from state agencies and will, as it has for years, compete for grant funds and state contracts on the same fair and evenhanded basis as other valued social service organizations."