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Election 2014 Mon Oct 27 2014

Bruce Rauner and the Illusion of Reform

Bruce Rauner has been running on a promise of shaking up Springfield, which is not shocking from any political candidate. Candidates often run on the promise of making progress or taking back the seat they are running for.

Rauner seems to be using particularly strong rhetoric about how he will change Illinois. His slogan is "Shake up Springfield. Bring back Illinois." He once put together a campaign ad where he picks up a sledgehammer after picking up a tiny hammer, which feels more like performance art than a serious campaign ad from someone who wants to be the next Governor of Illinois.

Ruaner was also behind the term limit amendment, which is not on the ballot, but seemed to have an intent that was to keep there from being career politicians in Illinois. This is not a reference to people who seem to work their way up the ladder, but those who are elected to seats and seem to stay there forever. (See: Madigan, Michael.)

Although Rauner has a questionable budget plan and is opposed to same-sex marriage in Illinois and raising the minimum wage depending on what day you ask him about it, he has positioned himself as the reform candidate. He is, after all, promising to "shake up Springfield."

The problem is Rauner is proving to be no different than a lot of other Illinois officials.

We first of all know about him using his clout to get his daughter into Walter Payton High School because New Trier High School was not good enough. As the Tribune discovered, numerous Illinois officials had used their influence to get children into selective enrollment high schools run by the CPS. Rauner is just another one of those officials who did that.

More recently, Rauner's campaign retaliated against the Sun-Times, which led to repercussions towards now-former Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney. McKinney was one of three journalists who collaborated on an article about a lawsuit against Rauner and his partners at GTCR, his investment firm, as well as GTCR. The lawsuit alleges that Rauner threatened the then-CEO of LeapSource, a startup GTCR had backed.

According to the letter of resignation McKinney wrote and posted online as well as an editorial by Sun-Times editor and publisher Jim Kirk, the Rauner camp then fought back by claiming a conflict of interest because McKinney's wife, Ann Liston, is a partner in a consulting firm that works for political clients.

By the accounts given by McKinney and Kirk, efforts were made to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

McKinney was then put on a week-long leave and then returned to the paper. As mentioned earlier, he has subsequently resigned.

Whether there was a conflict of interest or if McKinney really should have been removed is up to the reader, but ultimately Rauner's campaign tried to silence reporting that was unfavorable to him. This is something most people in the United States think of as what happens to the media in other countries.

Of course, if people would think a politician would go after a reporter, they would likely think it would happen in Illinois because most people associate corruption with this state.

If there's anything that has been seen with Rauner running for governor it's that the man who claims he will bring change to Springfield would likely be no different than the crooked politicians that have become synonymous with Illinois.

Rauner is among the myriad of politicians who promise reform, but it comes in a dubious form. Often when politicians talk about "education reform" they mean they will add a lot of charter schools and fire unionized teachers. "Healthcare reform," although having some positive effects, still leaves some people screwed over. "Reform" and the concept of taking back a city, county, state or the entire United States often involves either proving you're no different than any other politician, not sticking to your principals, or simply siding with corporations. Talk from politicians of reform or "shaking up" the government is little more than a buzzword. All it really means is "I am not the incumbent" or "I am trying to distance myself from my the guy who previously had the seat I am running for."

While Rauner shows he is not Gov. Pat Quinn through his actions, it seems unlikely he would truly change Springfield. If a politician behaves in a way most of the country expects Illinois politicians to act, can anyone really expect him to change how things are done in Springfield?

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