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home : opinions :   April 29, 2016

2/4/2014 12:55:00 PM
Column: Beware of the Rauner approach

Tamara Abbey
NT Mendota Bureau Chief

Illinois pensions are the centerpiece of a Republican’s bid for the gubernatorial nomination. The candidate blames most of the state’s fiscal woes on teacher pensions.

That would be the same pension system that helped him make the millions of dollars he’s sinking into his own campaign.

The candidate, Bruce Rauner, takes what I would call a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to politics. He’s not alone, not by a long shot, but this campaign seems particularly brazen.

As a venture capitalist, the state’s pension funds have invested heavily with Rauner’s companies. If he becomes governor, he apparently wants to “hammer and shake” those pensions away. I wonder if he knows there’s no more money to be made from our public employees so now he’s ready to kick them out?

It also seems odd that Rauner is crying foul over union support for the current governor. I’ve seen plenty of press releases bashing the unions, the ones with members who have helped Rauner make his personal fortune.

According to Rauner it’s unfair for unions to support Gov. Pat Quinn, a democrat. But it’s fair for him to use the pension profits he collected to attack Quinn?

Forget throwing the baby out with the bathwater, this candidate is torching the house in his zeal to buy the governorship. “Hammer and shake” is definitely the right slogan for this campaign. He’s absolutely determined to destroy anything in his path.

What I can’t find in the avalanche of e-mails is a plan for rebuilding. He thought he had an idea for pension reform that may or may not resemble his venture capital firm’s plan that generated millions in commissions, but then the state legislature came up with one.

He gave a speech a few months ago in support of raising the minimum wage. Then Quinn renewed his push. Now Rauner is dead-set against it.

I know plenty of small, independent business owners agree that raising the minimum wage will hurt. Yet, business has survived it before. Isn’t it a little telling that share values in discount chain stores are declining as this economy continues to squeeze out the lower class?

Rauner probably wouldn’t know much about employment since venture capital firms usually take over a company, drain the assets, pay themselves a commission and then file bankruptcy while blaming union pensions for their failure.

Any one with any interest in education should also be wary of Rauner and his support for charter schools. These for-profit schools do not save taxpayers any money. They may post glowing student achievement scores but that’s due to cherry picking students. Any students with disabilities aren’t going to be accepted. Any students not gifted with the ability to regurgitate a textbook for a test won’t be accepted. Even with the hand-picked student body, charter schools are not doing any better than public schools. About the only thing they’re better at is padding the bill. Sure, there’s none of those pesky teacher’s retirement payments; all the money goes straight into the pockets of the school’s chief executive officer and a board that knows even less about education than our state legislators.

I do know that our last governor went to jail for trying to sell an elected office.

Now we have a candidate that wants to buy an elected office by dumping millions of dollars into his campaign.

And he’s not even subtle about it.

Tamara Abbey can be reached at (815) 539-5200 or

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