State Investigating $2M Campaign Contribution to Gov. Rauner

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EYEWITNESS NEWS CAPITOL BUREAU – An investigation into Governor Bruce Rauner’s campaign finances goes public just as he prepares statewide television ad blitz.

The Illinois Chief Procurement Officer is investigating a $2 million donation made to the Rauner campaign last December. The problem is the vendor may have broken the law by giving the governor a donation. This less than one week after Governor Bruce Rauner (R-Illinois) told reporters his campaign ledger is clean.

“My donors are taxpayers,” Rauner said. “The reality is I have not taken money from folks who do business with the state, who make money from the government by the government spending more money.”

UIS Political Science Professor Ron Michaelson said the revelation comes at an awkward time for the governor. Rauner has spent most of June hammering Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) for working for so-called political cronies.

The law, passed in 2010, restricts donations for companies who receive more than $50,000 in contracts from the state. The law reads “Any business entity whose contracts with State agencies, in the aggregate, annually total more than $50,000 … are prohibited from making any contributions to any political committee established to promote the candidacy of (i) the officeholder responsible for awarding the contracts or (ii) any other declared candidate for that office.”

CEO Richard Uihlein of Uline Inc., a packing materials company, made the $2 million donation to the Rauner campaign in December. Uline has received more than $50,000 from the governor’s office in the last three budget years according to the state comptroller’s office. Michaelson, a former Board of Elections director, said this happens every so often.

“It looks like in this case it might have been violated, it’s been violated before,” Michaelson said.

He said companies who make receive many small contracts with the state can easily lose track and go over the limit.

“Sometimes it’s exceeded unintentionally when it’s a bunch of small contracts, but they all add up,” Michaelson said.

Uline is also required by law to register as an ineligible donor with the state board of elections. Uline did not. The donation is being investigated by the chief procurement officer. If a violation is determined, the Rauner campaign could have to pay the state a fine equal to the amount of the donation.

The governor’s office said it could not speak for Uline and why the company was not properly registered as ineligible with the board of elections in the first place. Spokesperson Catherine Kelly said, “Rauner’s campaign has a strong record of compliance.”

Rauner has also had an apparent change of heart on releasing television ads during the tense budget negotiations. The day after the May 31 deadline, the governor said Democrats were wildly speculating about a statewide TV ad blitz.

“I have never announced that I’m doing anything like that, they’re just speculating at this point,” Rauner said.

Federal FCC files show ads in favor of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda will begin rolling out across the state on Tuesday including in Central Illinois. The campaign is unprecedented during budget negotiations in a non-election year. Former campaign strategist Tim McAnarney said it’s an indication the Rauner camp may be getting impatient.

“I think it’s a sign that there’s some stumbling along the way and that there wasn’t an agreement as quickly as the governor would have liked,” McAnarney said.

But, he speculated launching ads amidst heated debate and negotiations may make reaching a deal more difficult.

“It will complicate negotiations,” McAnarney said. “These are human beings. No one likes to be attacked on either side.”

The governor’s office did not comment on Rauner’s change of heart or the reason behind the decision to release the ads.

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