Gov. Rauner goes hog wild kick-starting re-election bid

Is Harley-ridin’ Gov. Bruce Rauner “smoke and lightnin’?”

Or smoke and mirrors?

Rauner rides his 2008 Ultra Classic Harley Davidson across the state in an online campaign video to announce his re-election bid.

Wearing a long-sleeved black hoodie, a leather vest full of badges, shades, biker boots and a helmet, the Republican governor kick starts his bid for a second term.

Rauner’s voice-over is the chief audio, but the “heavy metal thunder” of Steppenwolf’s biker anthem “Born to Be Wild” would seem equally appropriate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner. Screen grab from campaign video.

The governor is not riding solo in using motorcycles to project an image in campaign ads.

And he joins a long list of Republican politicians who are Harley riders, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Is it a metaphor for rebelliousness or independence? A symbol of conservatism? There are various interpretations. And Rauner has always touted himself as a political outsider, a “rebel” of sorts.

But is he a real rider? Or a weekend wannabe?


“I know his bike. He’s a rider,” said Dan Harper, of A.B.A.T.E. Illinois, which stands for A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education. Harper, who has ridden with Rauner, said the governor also passes some biker muster because before he became governor he regularly went to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the famous annual biker rally.

“He was going there almost every year,” Harper said.

Harper, who serves as a legislative coordinator for the motorcycle education and advocacy group, said the governor most recently rode in the DuKane A.B.A.T.E. Toy and Food Run, hosted by the DuPage and Kane county chapters on Oct. 8.

The video in which Gov. Bruce Rauner officially announces his re-election bid is narrated by the governor, who continues to slam House Speaker Michael Madigan accompanied by footage the leather-clad Republican riding his Harley Davidson through Illinois. | Screenshot

“In my opinion, he’s a biker,” Harper said, adding it’s a great source of stress relief for a man with a lot on his shoulders.

The Ultra Classic is among Harley’s best-sellers and it’s used for normal daily riding, or longer trips, according to Larry Bozek of Chi-Town Harley Davidson. The video features a peek at Rauner’s mileage —30,000 — which Bozek called “pretty good.” Bozek said the average Ultra Classic rider puts about 5,000 to 6,000 miles on the bike a year.

“The guy’s got protection on, and he’s just enjoying his day riding,” Bozek said of the video.

Brian Gaines, political science professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, said there’s a strong association of independence when it comes to Harley Davidsons. He said the timing is perfect to “plant the association of an independent,” in light of the backlash over House Bill 40, the abortion bill the governor signed, angering his conservative base.

Bikes aside, Gaines called the video “rather well done” in terms of visual appeal and music. But Gaines said Rauner has his work cut out for him in trying to unify Republicans, and also finding a way to win over independents as he did in 2014.

“For now, while his general-election opponent is not determined, and his primary path isn’t yet blocked, tagging himself a ‘fighter’ and projecting an aura of loner who won’t back down is probably playing his weak hand not too badly,” Gaines said.

Others questioned the effectiveness of the video, since it’s only being featured online, for now.

“I don’t know how many people are going to see it,” said Collin Corbett, a Republican consultant. “It’s about two minutes. Most online ads are between 15 and 30 seconds. This has got to be an opening sell to what is a much, much larger strategy. Because this really can’t be it.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner on his Harley. Screen grab from campaign video.

Corbett said the motorcycle image is another continuation of the Rauner campaign portraying the multi-millionaire businessman as a “normal guy.”

“I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’re going to see him on a motorcycle, or we’ll see him in that famous Carhartt jacket. And you might see him out hunting a few more times than usual between now and March 20th,” Corbett said. “What we’re learning nowadays and some had to learn the hard way is that voters can see through fake and so, when it comes to something where you’re trying to show Rauner as somebody on a motorcycle, or somebody who hunts, then it’s got to be real because voters see through that.”

He called showing Rauner’s real habits a “tried and true” primary strategy.

At least one of Rauner’s Democratic scoffed at Rauner’s motorcycle message.

“Bruce Rauner’s motorcycle must have taken a wrong turn if took him three years to ‘choose’ to fight for this state,” J.B. Pritzker’s campaign manager Anne Caprara said in a statement. “It’s time for Rauner to go, and at least we know he already has his transportation.”

Gov. Rauner goes hog wild kick-starting re-election bid

DOUBEK: Huge buyouts sock it to taxpayers

A top public official in Illinois underperforms or, sometimes, even gets caught misbehaving and what do we do? Too often, the answer has been to give them a six-figure, padded landing. It’s time to stop that nonsense once and for all.


The Better Government Association recently took a look at hefty public severance deals and found no fewer than nine instances of public bodies granting severance packages to top-level executives that added up to more than $5 million of taxpayer money.

In a few cases, university administrators misbehaved and were removed from their posts, but they still were granted paid sabbaticals or tenured positions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if we’re allowing a former administrator to keep a tenured teaching position, we’re giving that person a job and a pension for life that will keep costing us.

  • Michael Hogan, a former University of Illinois president at Urbana-Champaign, resigned after it was discovered his chief of staff posed as a member of the university’s legislative body to try to influence a debate. He was paid $67,500 to end his contract. He also got a one-year paid sabbatical worth $285,000 and a teaching post with an annual salary of $285,000.
  • Richard Herman, a former chancellor at the U. of I., resigned in the midst of an admissions scandal eight years ago. He got a sabbatical worth $244,000 and a job as special assistant to the interim president with a salary of $395,000.
  • Just four years ago, former chancellor Phyllis Wise, of the U. of I., resigned as documents were released suggesting she hid information from the public, likely violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act. But she got a $365,000 sabbatical and a tenured teaching post with a salary of nearly $300,000. She left earlier this year for a Colorado job.

The good news is that state lawmakers have passed laws limiting severance packages and boosting transparency for these sorts of deals at public universities and community colleges. HB3593 and SB2159 limited severance to a year’s salary, limited contracts to four years and required public notice before a contract was extended or amended. That’s great, but it applies only to certain positions in certain public institutions and there’s no specific restriction on sabbaticals and teaching positions.

Neither of those bills covers severance deals for other government jobs like village managers or county executives, or top jobs at special agencies like Metra or the water reclamation district.

No one suggested former Metra CEO Alex Clifford had done anything wrong, but he resigned and had his contract bought out, got a promise of making up any salary difference between his current job and his next one, moving expenses, and payment for pension and medical coverage contributions for a grand total that was valued at more than $650,000. There was uproar at the time, but it’s since faded away.

This is taxpayer money. Why not stop the golden parachutes at all levels once and for all?

State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a suburban Democrat who worked on previous legislation after a severance controversy at the College of DuPage, said he hears the argument that buyouts need to be generous  to attract top talent who could go elsewhere, but he calls that “foolish.”

He said he understands some executives might lose their jobs simply because they don’t get along with a new mayor or president or board majority, and those jobs deserve “at least a minimal amount of protection,” perhaps a year’s salary that the public is aware of before it’s granted.

“There’s no need for these huge buyouts at the end,” Cullerton said. “That’s your money and my money.”

State Sen. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat who is vice chair of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee and sponsor of the law just enacted that restricts payouts for college presidents and chancellors, agrees more can be done.

“I think we put some speed bumps in place, some pretty high ones,” Cunningham said of the law that applies to top college executives. “I think the same model we’ve put in place for universities and colleges can also be applied anywhere where they enter into contractual employment agreements. I think that’s worth looking at.”

“When a severance payment is made, something went wrong,” Cunningham said. “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to fork over a ton of money.”

California passed a law restricting school superintendents’ severance to 12 months’ pay. Florida went even further, passing a law that limits severance for any public “officer, agent, employee, or contractor” to no more than five months’ salary.

Let’s follow Florida’s lead. Let’s stop all the eye-popping, six-figure severances, paid sabbaticals, tenured positions and other giveaways, too.

If you’re leading or managing a government, you should be paid well and competitively. If you’re being asked to leave, then no more gilded parachutes. It’s time to end the cushy landings.

Madeleine Doubek is policy & civic engagement director of the Better Government Association.

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DOUBEK: Huge buyouts sock it to taxpayers

Claypool seeks $2.5 million more for CPS consultants

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool now is asking to spend up to $28 million on consultants for the broke district, including his longtime associates who’ve seen their billings increase even as district spending on consultants dropped.

The $2.5 million increase Claypool will put before the Board of Education on Wednesday is needed “to continue key organizational process improvement, cost efficiency and governance strategies” performed by companies including three consulting firms with close ties to him and to the tight circle of aides he brought to CPS from other public agencies.

Sources told the Sun-Times that school board members had been asked to consider a larger addition of $8.5 million during closed-door briefings held earlier this month. Top Claypool aides Andrell Holloway, who oversees audits, and Ronald DeNard, head of finance, made those asks, according to briefing documents.

CPS did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Crowe Horwath LLP, KPMG LLP and UCG Associates have seen their billings skyrocket from next to nothing since Claypool took the helm of CPS in 2015, in the wake of a contracting scandal that has imprisoned the former CEO. The firms have performed such professional services as IT projects, the “financial transformation of Diverse Learning Initiatives” or changes to special education spending, and a variety of audits.

Holloway used to work at KPMG before Claypool hired him at the Chicago Transit Authority; DeNard considers UCG’s chief financial officer a friend who’s “definitely ride or die,” and at least three Crowe Horwath consultants — who moved into offices at CPS — had worked with Claypool and donated to his political campaigns.

The proposal the school board will consider asks for up to $1 million more toward a comprehensive annual financial report CPS needs for bond sales that fall under DeNard’s purview, and up to $700,000 more to continue Holloway’s schools audits.

It also seeks $800,000 for “software architecture technical expertise” for the GoCPS universal enrollment website championed by chief education officer Janice Jackson.

The board has authorized some 43 companies to perform professional services work and it’s not yet clear which of them will benefit from this latest extension.

Invoices reviewed by the Sun-Times show that Crowe Horwath has previously prepared the district’s CAFR, and Crowe and KPMG have handled school audits. Some of their associates have been paid upwards of $300 an hour for work at CPS; Crowe’s top rate is $350 an hour.

This is the third time district officials asked to raise the spending ceiling on its professional services work that started as $14 million on November 1, 2015, and was supposed to last until October 31, 2018. An $11.5 million extension was approved a year ago, though Gail Ward abstained.

The Chicago Teachers Union renewed its calls for Claypool’s ouster.

“The CPS CEO is using the district as his personal patronage machine while the exposes pile up at the expense of our most vulnerable students — like those who rely on special education services,” staff coordinator Jackson Potter said. “We raised the alarm about Forrest Claypool when more than 98 percent of members voting in a CTU ‘no confidence’ referendum registered their complete lack of faith in him. Had the mayor followed our lead, we would now have more resources for classrooms and special education services that are currently going into the deep pockets of Claypool’s cronies.”

Claypool seeks $2.5 million more for CPS consultants

Democratic attorneys general unite against concealed-carry gun law

NEW YORK — Democratic attorneys general from 17 states, including Illinois’ Lisa Madigan, are calling on Congress to abandon legislation backed by the National Rifle Association that would allow concealed-carry gun permits issued in one state to be valid in all states.

The top prosecutors from states that also include New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California sent a letter to congressional leaders in both parties on Sunday warning that federal reciprocity proposals being debated on Capitol Hill “will lead to the death of police officers and civilians, the proliferation of gun traffickers, and acts of terrorism and other mass violence.”

“With the worst shooting in American history fresh in our memory, we urge you and your colleagues to reject these ill-conceived bills,” write the attorneys general in a letter organized by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The fresh warning comes as the gun lobby, emboldened by complete Republican control of Washington, continues to press for looser gun restrictions in the weeks after an attack in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds more wounded. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Already, momentum appears to be slowing for a federal measure that would outlaw devices, known as “bump stocks,” that allowed the Las Vegas shooter’s semi-automatic weapons to mimic fully automatic guns. The National Rifle Association insists that the recent shooting has not softened its support for any its 2017 legislative priorities, which include legislation that would make it easier to buy gun silencers.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which already has more than 200 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, “remains the NRA’s top legislative priority,” said Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA’s lobbying arm. The measure, if approved by Congress, would allow people with concealed-carry gun permits in one state to bring their guns into any other, regardless of whether that state has tougher requirements for obtaining permits.

Baker said the current “patchwork of state and local laws” creates confusion that “often leads to law-abiding gun owners running afoul of the law when they exercise their right to self-protection while traveling or temporarily living away from home.”

Supporters argue, for example, that the legislation would help protect truck drivers and women traveling across state lines alone at night.

Beyond the Democratic attorneys general, the critics also include gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, which is backed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and vowed earlier in the year to spend “what it takes” to defeat the legislation.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last week found that 61 percent of Americans believe the nation’s gun laws should be more tough, while 27 percent want them to stay the same and another 11 percent want them less strict.

The answers were divided sharply along ideological lines. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, but just a third of Republicans, want to see gun laws made stricter.

The Democratic attorney generals argue that concealed-carry reciprocity would empower gun traffickers, terrorists and other criminals. And they say it would help criminals avoid permit requirements altogether should they assert residence in one of the 12 states that allow gun owners to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

“After each tragedy we lament the loopholes in our federal gun laws. It’s vital that we not create another one,” Schneiderman said.

The letters’ authors also include attorneys general from Massachusetts, Oregon, Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, New Mexico, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

Democratic attorneys general unite against concealed-carry gun law

Chicago’s Amazon bid includes $2.25 billion incentive package

The Chicago area’s bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters includes $2.25 billion worth of incentives — and even more if the company chooses the Thompson Center or the old Michael Reese Hospital site where the city and state could provide free land.

The $2 billion incentive package includes:

  • Roughly $1.4 billion in state EDGE tax credits. The newly-revised program provides a 50 percent tax break for every job they create in Illinois.
  • $60 million in property tax breaks through the county and state programs known as Class 7B and 7C.
  • $450 million in site-specific infrastructure improvements that would come from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Transportation, the CTA and other agencies.
  • $250 million worth of in investments in education, workforce development and “Neighborhood Opportunity Funds” to make certain that all Chicagoans can qualify for the 50,000 high-end Amazon jobs and that businesses that spring up or move here to support Amazon locate in Chicago neighborhoods.
  • Free land worth $100 million, if Amazon chooses to the old Michael Reese Hospital site purchased by former Mayor Richard M. Daley as the site for an Olympics Chicago didn’t get and even more if Amazon chooses the Thompson Center that the state has been trying desperately to sell.

The incentive package pales by comparison to the $9 billion that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered in hopes of luring Amazon to Newark.

But sources close to the negotiations view the package as a good-faith effort to lure the motherlode of all economic development projects and a far cry from the “corporate welfare” that so many critics and gubernatorial candidates have decried.

Almost as significant as the incentive package itself is the fact that Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the four legislative leaders all worked together to craft the incentive package. They’re all on the same page.

“The message to Amazon is, `We’re serious. We want this. We’re all together on this. But we’re gonna do it in a way that’s good for all of us,’ “ said a source familiar with the bid.

“We’re hoping Amazon will appreciate that we want to make this good for people. It’s a fair assessment of the value they bring. It’s not a corporate giveaway. We’re hoping they appreciate that and the idea that corporate giveaways are not really in their best interest. It’s got to be good for everybody.”

The source stressed that Chicagoans and neighborhood businesses — not Amazon — would be the beneficiaries of the $250 million in investments in education, workforce development and “Neighborhood Opportunity Funds.”

The money would come from City Colleges funding, Workforce Development programs and Neighborhood Opportunity Funds. That’s the share-the-wealth fund Emanuel created to help rebuild long-neglected Chicago neighborhoods with contributions from developers allowed to build bigger and taller buildings in a broader downtown area.

“That money is ensure that everyone participates. It’s so people can get educated to work there and you don’t have to come from MIT to qualify. It’s also designed to make sure that businesses that support Amazon can locate in Chicago neighborhoods,” the source said.

Last week, Emanuel and Rauner disclosed that the Chicago area bid gives Amazon ten sites from which to choose.

They include a Downtown Gateway District that includes Willis Tower and the Old Main Post Office; a River District where Tribune Media wants to build 15 office and residential towers; Lincoln Yards that includes the old Finkl Steel plant among 100 acres along the Chicago River; the Burnham Lakefront that includes the old Michael Reese Hospital site; the 78, a 62-acre site at Roosevelt and Clark once owned by convicted felon Tony Rezko where Rauner dreams of building an innovation center led by the University of Illinois; the Illinois Medical District; a City Center campus that includes the Thompson Center; the Illinois Medical District and the fast-growing and transformed Fulton Market District.

Suburban sites include the Oakbrook headquarters of McDonald’s and the former Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg.

The Thompson Center was included in the bid, even though Emanuel and Rauner have yet to reach agreement on Rauner’s demand for “maximum zoning” on the site and the thorny issue of who will be stuck with the $100 million tab to rebuild the busy CTA station there.

“They wouldn’t have put it in there if they didn’t think they could reach agreement. Obviously, they think they can agree,” said the source familiar with the bid.

“The message here is we’re all working together. We’re cooperating. This is literally the first time that all of these people have put aside their differences and agreed that this is bigger than all of us and to tell Amazon, `We want you. We’re serious. We can play. But, we’re also determined to do something that’s good for taxpayers where everybody benefits.”

Chicago’s Amazon bid includes $2.25 billion incentive package

Selle: Pop tax defeat in Cook County should embolden timid voters

That loud sound you hear is the grinding and gnashing by elected officials across Illinois since Cook County residents chalked up a victory on behalf of taxpayers everywhere.

The Cook County’s controversial “sweetened” beverage tax was repealed after a taxpayer revolt the size few have ever witnessed in the Land of Lincoln. Usually, citizens just accept new taxes, suck it up and merely gripe about how expensive it is to live in Illinois.

But this time, normally timorous taxpayers stood their ground and said they weren’t going to take it anymore. The Cook County tax rebellion should be a cautionary tale for public bodies across the region.

Perhaps it was the blatant falsehood that the pop tax was enacted for health reasons. Or maybe Cook County residents have suffered long enough with what political scientists call “tax fatigue,” paying some of the highest taxes in the state.

Cook County taxes may be high, but of course the Illinois county with the highest property taxes is Lake County, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Lake County property taxes — with a median of nearly $7,000 annually — rank 21st highest in the U.S., and tops in the Midwest.

That ranking doesn’t consider the other various taxes we pay to make it through a normal day. In comparison, Cook County residents face a median of about $4,500 annually to live in their homes.

On the other hand, they have all sorts of growing add-on taxes. Like a wheel tax on vehicles, a 10.25 percent sales tax — one of the highest in the U.S. — and other levies. For a few months, they had that “sweetened” beverage tax.

While prodded by the beverage industry — which Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unsuccessfully tried to label “Big Soda,” like big government is the little guy — potential voters did the one thing that scares elected officials: They started writing, emailing, faxing and calling their county commissioners to express dissatisfaction with the pop tax. They started shopping in neighboring counties.

It wasn’t only pop drinkers from tony North Shore communities. Nope, consumers from across Cook County pummeled their commissioners into repealing the tax. And they didn’t care that urging officials to renege on the tax means there’s a $200 million hole in the Cook County budget.

With one anti-tax win notched, will Cook County taxpayers pour over the other sin taxes and fees they pay? One can only hope.

Just days after the pop tax revolt was sorted out, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed hiking the city’s amusement tax on large venues and increasing the city’s tax on cell phones and landlines. These guys just don’t get it.

Not that officials in Lake County are less tax happy.

Nearly every Lake County community has a litany of add-on taxes and fees residents pay little attention to because most are buried in the fine print of their monthly bills.

For instance, there’s city and village excise taxes on cell phones, internet access, cable usage. There’s amusement and entertainment taxes on theater, movie tickets and, in Gurnee, an admission tax to Six Flags Great America.

Some officials in home=rule communities have hiked sales taxes on top of the federal gasoline and regional mass transit taxes we pay at the pump. Of course, the state hasn’t been shy about those “hidden” taxes, either.

Illinois is only one of seven states in the U.S. that charges sales tax on gasoline. There’s telecomm taxes, a state 9-1-1 tax on phone bills; liquor and cigarette taxes; state taxes on electricity and natural gas usage, along with a state gas revenue tax on suppliers of natural gas, who pass that charge along to consumers.

With off-presidential elections next year, voters need to stop being timid and hold candidates’ accountable for the taxes they’ve supported in the past. They need to question their elected representatives about their future taxing plans. You know they have them.

Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.

Twitter @sellenews

Selle: Pop tax defeat in Cook County should embolden timid voters

Gov. Bruce Rauner announces his re-election campaign on The Steve Cochran Show

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner stopped by The Steve Cochran Show this morning to announce his re-election campaign for the 2018 Gubernatorial race.  The Governor stressed that he loves Illinois…it’s where he calls home. He says he wants what’s best for the residents of this great state.

Gov. Bruce Rauner announces his re-election campaign on The Steve Cochran Show