Former Illinois Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk was never a household name; but to hear him tell it, there were times that he and a few colleagues were effectively running the State of Illinois.
After all, he says the real governor, Rod Blagojevich, was rarely around.
“It was shocking, but he would literally go three months at a clip without coming to the office,” Tusk said. “He was just at home, every single day, going for runs, stretch, showering, watching SportsCenter. He could tell you the slugging percentage of everyone on the Cubs at any given moment. He just wasn’t interested in the day-to-day details of government.”
In a new book, “The Fixer”, Tusk describes a governor who was more interested in the thrill of the campaign, than the drudgery of governing.
“He just really felt like it was not his responsibility—not his interest,” he said. “He was interested in politics, he was interested in fighting with people. He was convinced that everyone was out to get him, and sometimes in fairness to him, they were.”
As a result, Tusk says at a very young age, he was forced to make big decisions for the people of the state.
“Some ways, we could do them because whatever we thought was a good idea, we just went ahead and did,” he said. “I was 29 and was effectively the decision maker because he wasn’t around. For four years straight, he barely weighed in on any legislations, whether to sign or veto it. We just did it ourselves.”
Tusk’s own moments in the limelight came at Blagojevich’s two criminal trials, where he testified that his former boss wanted to squeeze Rahm Emanuel’s Hollywood brother Ari for a fundraiser, in exchange for release of a state grant for a North Side school.
“Not until they get the fundraiser—they promised me a fundraiser,” he recalled Blagojevich saying. “Ari owes me a fundraiser and they’re not getting that grant until I get my fundraiser. You tell them that.”
Tusk says he never delivered the message.
“Clearly his focus was on an old school way of doing business where trading favors for grants, for patronage, for contracts, and for campaign contributions.”
After leaving the Blagojevich administration, Tusk worked as campaign manager for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and later made a fortune as a venture capitalist and consultant for Uber and other companies. He once wrote an article for Inc. magazine during the early days of the Trump administration entitled “How To Survive When You Have a Crazy Boss,” based on his days in the Blagojevich orbit.
“He liked the process of becoming governor,” Tusk said of his former boss. “He liked the attention, the perks, the security, all of the press coverage around it. But the day-to-day work—and if you do it right, it’s a really hard job—that, he wasn’t interested in at all.”