STUMP » Articles » Republicans Running in Blue States: Illinois Edition » 18 March 2014, 05:40

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Republicans Running in Blue States: Illinois Edition  


18 March 2014, 05:40

I just saw this piece about a primary race today:

Bruce Rauner is a private-equity executive running for governor of Illinois who wears an $18 watch and a Carhartt vest as he discusses how he’ll shake up government. That’s what viewers see in television ads promoting the political novice in tomorrow’s Republican primary.

Organized labor sees a reincarnation of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who derailed collective bargaining for public workers and triggered a wave of anti-union legislation in the nation’s industrial heart. Unions spent more than $3.6 million to oppose Rauner, 57, who blames their “bosses” for Illinois’s ills.

Rauner has spent more than $6 million of his own to win the right to face Democratic Governor Pat Quinn in November. He’s leading the four-person primary field as the only candidate with no elective experience, a distinction he emphasizes. The owner of nine homes with a 2012 income of $53 million, he’s a breed apart from Quinn, 65, a lifetime politician with a populist bent.

There are many angles to this, but let me go for the first, and easy one: Why?

Why would anyone take the thankess job of Illinois governor, especially since the fun money has run out?

Well, we see Rauner has made boatloads of money himself, so it’s not like he needs this gig the way 4 of the last 7 Illinois governors needed it …. needing it straight into prison. WOO!

If I were a Republican casting about for somewhere to run, Illinois would probably be one of the last places I’d want to go. Illinois has the lowest credit rating of the 50 states — it’s still “investment grade”, but let’s see how long that lasts.

The temptation would be to pull a Ray Patterson:

Illinoisians – you voted for this crap for decades. This ranking of official corruption by states is bullshit when Illinois comes in only at #16. Part of the problem is they go by conviction count (maybe the Illinois crooks just haven’t gotten caught — hey, the Daleys still roam free, don’t they?) and not the amount of money involved. Don’t waste time with rinky-dink crap when there are slush funds worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

If I had nothing to do with this crap, I’d wash my hands of it. It’s going to be really ugly trying to clean up stuff.

But perhaps Rauner sees some promise. Maybe it’s promise that he can get the fun money to come back, and he can have bit of the take (and maybe in a legit way — he’s a businessman and if more investment money comes into Illinois, then the good times roll for him.)

Maybe he likes living in the Midwest (hey, non gustibus and all that) and would rather keep his lake view without needing to hire a private army to allow him to walk down the Magnificent Mile unmolested.

Or maybe he’d feel at home in Illinois politics:

While he has accused insiders in both parties of abusing power and influence, he gave $250,000 to an elite Chicago prep school in 2009 that initially denied his daughter’s application. The payment came after she was admitted.

Rauner, who didn’t respond to requests for an interview, is the former chairman of GTCR, a Chicago private equity firm that has invested more than $10 billion in 200 companies since 1980, according to its website. Clients include the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System and New York’s teachers’ pensions.

He supports shifting public workers to 401(k)-type plans from traditional defined-benefit pensions, which give retirees a payout based on years of service and final salary. Illinois can no longer afford defined-benefit pensions, Rauner says.

I added the emphasis in that second bit. I will be getting back to the Illinois TRS in a later post — it is pretty much the largest statewide pension that’s in the worst fundedness position.

But it’s interesting that Rauner’s investment firm – a private equity firm – is involved in public pensions. I will be going into that much more later. Because it’s one of the problems with public pensions now.

Thing is, there has been an “enemies list” created by one of the large teachers’ unions over the past few years targeting guys like Rauner — specifically, trying to get investment firms fired by public pension funds because principals want to reform public pensions.

Here is the latest on the enemies list:

The second-largest U.S. teachers union has added a firm formerly headed by Bruce Rauner, a Republican leading the race in next week’s Illinois gubernatorial primary, to its enemies list.

The American Federation of Teachers is urging public pensions to review investments with Chicago-based GTCR, a private-equity firm where Rauner was chairman before stepping down in 2012. He supports shifting government workers to 401(k)- type plans from traditional defined-benefit pensions, which give retirees a payout based on years of service and final salary.

The AFT, with 1.5 million members, is scheduled to release an updated “watch list” of 29 money managers that the union says support groups opposed to traditional pensions. GTCR has $4.9 billion of commitments from U.S. public pension funds, according to Preqin Ltd., a London-based research firm. The AFT is also adding Highbridge Capital Management and a unit of London-based insurer Aon Plc to the list.

“Trustees should actually know if someone who is trying to get you to invest with them are also trying to eliminate the pension system,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a telephone interview. “The centerpiece of Rauner’s campaign is the elimination of the defined-benefit plan.”

Yup, they sent out a press release to specifically target Rauner. I guess they wanted to increase the probability he would win his primary.

Here’s a nice sign:

Illinois’s teachers pension trustees haven’t taken any action in response to the AFT’s watch list, said Dave Urbanek, a spokesman.

“Our watch list for the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois concerns itself with performance and management,” said Urbanek.

Which is exactly what the trustees should do. There’s this thing called fiduciary duty, and if trustees start using ideological purity for picking assets…. there may be trouble. Even New York hasn’t gone that far. Yet.

Anyway, I will check on Rauner tomorrow and see how he did. Should be fun if he’s up against quivering Quinn.

Compilation of Illinois posts

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