When a public official who contrary to their duty to act for the benefit of the public exploits the public or political relationship for personal financial gain, they are guilty of a conflict of interest and violating the public’s trust. Over the weekend, Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner assailed state legislators who accept campaign contributions from public employee unions for being guilty of a “conflict of interest.” As is usually the case with any Republican, Rauner is guilty of psychological projection as well as gross hypocrisy.
Republicans hate public sector unions as a matter of course and Rauner railed against Democrats he claimed were under the influence of organized labor in determining state workers’ salaries and benefits. Organized labor, or unions, represent public sector workers in negotiating labor contracts according to the will of the workers; they do not determine state workers’ salaries or benefits any more than state legislators do. Rauner likely understands that bashing unions is very popular among the cognitive challenged in Illinois.
Being a typical Republican, Rauner not only accused organize labor, and the legislators they support, of everything except committing human sacrifices, he claimed they were including manipulating elections; more Republican projection. He also hypocritically dismissed questions about his own glaringly monumental conflicts of interest in taking very substantial campaign contributions from millionaire executives at the financial firms that manage state pension money. Rauner lied and said the millionaires funding his campaign and profiting from controlling state employees’ pensions “are just taxpayers. They don’t do business with the state.” The only thing he did not say was that those millionaires work for free which is the case if they are not doing ‘business’ with the state.
Rauner is very Republican-angry at unions and took out his rage on Democrats for accepting campaign donations from labor organizations representing school teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and every other public sector employee from janitors to animal control officers. Rauner implied that union officials were manipulating the election process to rob taxpayers to pay public employees. He said public workers were guilty of taking taxpayer money and then using it against taxpayers’ best interests. Rauner believes taxpayer money belongs to him and his rich friends, so he is on a crusade to transfer pension funds to the wealthy elite to cover their, and his, outrageous tax cuts.
In fact, during his tirade against Democrats and organized labor, Rauner specifically cited a state pension shortfall despite the lion’s share of his substantial fortune was made from fees charged to institutional investors in public employee pension systems. Rauner said that police officers, teachers, firefighters, and other public workers have taken too much taxpayer money and then used that money as a weapon against Illinois’ residents that includes school teachers, police officers, public workers, and firefighters. He also said they are doing it because organized labor contributes to the wrong party; Democrats.
Rauner said, “When a government union leader can sit across the table from an elected official after contributing to their campaign and say we will negotiate what our pension is going to be, what our work rules are going to be, what our healthcare is going to be, it is a fundamental conflict of interest.” The problem with Rauner’s assertion is that legislators do not negotiate with teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, or public employees for wages, pensions, work rules, or healthcare plans and Rauner knows it. Negotiations are between the workers themselves and school districts, city councils, and county supervisors; legislators are not involved in negotiations at all, much less with their campaign donors because that would be a conflict of interest; something Bruce Rauner certainly knows more about than most, at least in Illinois.
For example, in his gubernatorial bid last year, and continuing, Rauner accepted over $140,000 in campaign contributions from his high-paid executive friends at the firms contracted to invest Illinois pension money; money he is now attempting to rob from public employees. Rauner also accepted millions more from his wealthy executive friends at other financial firms that invest and charge exorbitant fees for managing public employee pension funds. Rauner’s donors are liable to state regulation and oversight from various boards overseeing Illinois pension investments that Rauner controls. While Rauner was railing on Democrats’ organized labor donations, he failed to mention that as Illinois governor he appoints the members of those boards that oversee and manage state public pension investments. It is what any reasonably intelligent human being would label a gross conflict of interest.
What is even more astonishing about Rauner’s hypocrisy is that he was chairman, and according to Securities and Exchange documents, still holds a partnership stake in GTCR; the financial firm overseeing not one, but two separate state retirement systems. That means that as governor he wields significant control over Illinois public employees’ pension money that he has a considerable personal financial stake in. It is beyond a shadow of doubt that Rauner is a walking, talking epitome of conflict of interest; and a lying hypocrite of the first order.
He is also a typical Republican; albeit an uber-rich Wall Street Republican who is screeching about employee pensions he claims is wreaking havoc on Illinois’ economy. Rauner is slashing employee pensions in a budget move to maintain his own tax breaks as Illinois’ governor amounting to $750,000 annually; something he refuses to end for himself or his super-wealthy cohort no matter how threatened with demise he claims Illinois’ economy or budget is.
Like every Republican, whether a governor or state or federal legislator, Rauner is making truly Draconian budget cuts affecting most Illinois’ residents, but particularly the least fortunate; including drastically reducing public employee pension funds. Rauner, like all Republicans, continues rejecting calls to raise taxes on the extremely rich to bring in much-needed revenue because he will be affected. Instead of continuing a temporary 1.25% income tax surcharge on the richest Illinois residents that expired last year, Rauner is eliminating funding for organizations providing services for the disabled, autistic children, the homeless, safe school initiatives, breast and cervical cancer programs, and cutting 31.5% from education.
Rauner is also moving state employees’ who make middle class salaries ($45,000) or less to pension plans with substantially lower benefits than they have paid for throughout their working lives; likely to teach organized labor and Democrats a lesson. There is a multitude of other truly inhumane budget cuts totaling over $6 billion in Rauner’s budget, but none of them will affect his personal $750,000 a year tax break.
Rauner uses the typical Wall Street Republican line and says that in tough economic times “everyone must come together to address the reality that everyone can’t get everything they want;” unless they are the uber-rich hypocritical governor who hates unions and knows how to rob public employees’ pensions. There is little doubt that Bruce Rauner is the most glaring example of a conflict of interest in recent memory, and for what he is doing to the overwhelming majority of Illinois residents he is evil incarnate.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.