On Saturday, the governor addressed the annual meeting of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in Chicago.
He seemed to be feeling very chummy toward the group, maybe because they have “business” in their organization’s title.
He opened his speech with a request to reporters to help him pass his reforms, asking for the press’s support three times during his 15-minute speech.
“I’m here because I think you guys can help us spread the message here in Illinois,” Rauner said.
The governor seemed to think it would be OK to throw a few grenades at unions and the middle class and walk away, letting the journalists type up and distribute his remarks.
After the governor wrapped up his speech, he declared he wouldn’t answer any questions from the audience.
Based on the report from International Business Times, Rauner might have had good reason to avoid questions. IBT writers David Sirota and Andrew Perez seem to have a good understanding of how the former CEO operates.
A former private equity executive who made his fortune, in part, from fees charged to institutional investors like public employee pension systems, Rauner specifically took aim squarely at teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers. He said: “The groups that make their money from government in Illinois have a lot of money, they have the taxpayers’ money and they are using it against the taxpayers’ interest.”
As he was exiting the room, IBTimes asked Rauner if it is a similar conflict of interest for him to have taken money from firms that either are regulated by or do business with the state. He said only it is not the same, but did not explain further.
In 2014, Rauner’s campaign raked in $67 million, including nearly $13.5 million from Citadel’s Ken Griffin, whose Chicago-based financial firm is overseen, in part, by state securities regulators. Rauner’s opponent, then-incumbent Pat Quinn, raised $30 million, with more than $6 million coming from public employee unions.
Yes, that might be hard to explain. Better to not answer questions.
One of the reasons Bruce Rauner got elected was that voters were fed up with corrupt state politicians.
Rod Blagojevich personifies that group.
So it’s interesting that the new governor seems to be reading from the Blagojevich playbook.
Governor Blagojevich liked to tell made-up stories designed to get audiences on his side for issues that he cared about.
Similarly, Gov. Rauner likes to tell stories that illustrate points he wants understood. While we can’t be certain that this one is made up, well, you be the judge. The governor told the audience at the Citizens Club meeting in Springfield last week that he visited a state agency where he immediately diagnosed inefficiencies that could be addressed with technology improvements.
But, as Rauner related it, the employees said that wasn’t possible. Why? Because — wait for it now — the unions won’t allow it. Specifically, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Being a numbers kind of guy, Rauner asked how the numbers worked out on this deal.
“And people knew the numbers,” Rauner said. “Very quickly somebody got back to me and said, ‘Governor, we could spend approximately $1.7 million on a computer system. We could save $8 million a year.’ “
In the governor’s telling, the union blocked progress and savings because it would have eliminated 120 union jobs.
So, where is this happening? Who’s responsible?
A spokesperson told the State Journal Register’s Doug Finke it would be “premature to provide additional details.”
As Finke notes,
A nice, tidy anecdote that exactly fits the governor’s narrative about the comparative evils of unions and bureaucracy and stifling innovation, all at an undisclosed location in state government. No reason to be skeptical.
It will not come as a surprise that AFSCME says the story “sounds like pure fiction.”
Perhaps, during his years in in private business, Bruce Rauner became accustomed to having his every statement assumed to be a fact. State government reporters have covered too many shady characters to allow a new governor to spew make-believe stories and have them reported as truth.