A coalition of labor unions is using a Rod Blagojevich-inspired ethics law to try to block Bruce Rauner from spending more of his personal wealth to attempt to win the Republican nomination for governor, according to a complaint union officials released Wednesday.
At issue is a provision of the state’s procurement code prohibiting any business entity or top official of a business that has contracts with state agencies from making donations to promote the candidacy of someone who will be responsible for awarding the contracts.
The 2008 law was an attempt to ban “pay to play” that became a hallmark under Blagojevich, who was later arrested, impeached and sent to prison on federal corruption charges. The law covers not only currently elected officials but people who have declared their candidacy for office.
In a complaint filed with the state’s executive inspector general, the Illinois AFL-CIO contends Rauner’s former chairmanship of the equity investment firm GTCR makes him ineligible to make donations to “declared” candidates for governor — including himself.
GTCR has continued to earn commissions on investments made on behalf of the Teachers Retirement System, the pension fund for teachers outside Chicago. Though Rauner retired from the firm prior to launching his bid for governor in March 2013, state law places a two-year ban on political donations.
“We feel very strongly that this is a clear violation of the procurement code. We already know that someone who makes $25,000 an hour isn’t like the rest of us, but the same rules apply to him, and his contributions appear to be prohibited,” said Michael Carrigan, president of the state AFL-CIO.
Rauner has put $5 million of his own money into his campaign for governor as part of nearly $13 million he has raised so far. Public employee unions have engaged in a late spree of TV ads and mailers to try to counter Rauner’s spending and criticism of “government union bosses.”
Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf contended the unions were “allies” of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and were acting “beyond the point of desperation.”
“The complaint fails on its face and is conceptually ridiculous. Bruce first contributed to his exploratory committee nearly a year ago, and the government union bosses finally filing this now only confirms that they know Bruce will defeat Quinn and shake up the status quo in Springfield,” Schrimpf said in a statement.
Officials from the Office of Executive Inspector General said they could not comment on the complaint, which the AFL-CIO filed late last week. An official in the inspector general’s office was not familiar with any previous complaints over alleged violations of prohibited donations by state contractors dealing with political candidates.