01/22/2014 05:54 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2014

Bruce Rauner's Troubling Past Puts His GOP Supporters in an Ugly Position

The last two weeks have been tough on GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and he has deserved every minute of it. After months of little-to-no scrutiny, Rauner's embarrassing flip-flop on the minimum wage opened a Pandora's box on questions about his ethics and character.

A Pandora's box that included reports that Rauner clouted his daughter into Walter Payton Prep with a $750,000 contribution and questions about the $25,000 a month he was paying Blagojevich political fixer Stuart Levine.

Rauner has not weathered the controversies well.

He was caught in another flip-flop Friday, first admitting, then denying that he made the call to former CPS CEO Arne Duncan after his daughter was rejected from the prestigious selective admissions school. Rauner has also refused to answer any more questions whether his payments to Levine were a quid pro quo for his firm, GTCR, receiving contracts from the Teachers Retirement System. He has denied even knowing Levine - a fact that may already be contradicted by a report released last week. By GOP or any standards, Rauner is a deeply flawed candidate and these revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. Until last week, voters only knew what Rauner's campaign team told them on TV: That he is a self-made businessman; an outsider who can "shake up" Springfield; a hard-working family man who wears an average guy $18 watch and Carhartt jacket. And, oh yes, that Michael Madigan and those nasty union labor bosses are terrified of him. That is intended to get GOP voters riled up and out to the polls. But now GOP voters are learning that Brucey has a weak spot, a chink in his gazillionaire's armor: He has a past as a political insider who has repeatedly gamed the system and played million-dollar footsie with both parties for personal gain. So Rauner's political challenge is to keep his insider past out of the spotlight (he made Rahm Emanuel a millionaire) and away from the TV sets of GOP voters until after the March primary. He is counting on his millions in TV ad dollars - $3.2 million to date - to save the day. But all of this puts conservative Republicans - especially those who are being paid by Rauner - in a serious pickle. Rauner's supporters are already making some wild excuses on social media. Democrats should screen shot them just for the entertainment value. Here are a few comments from Facebook - some from Bruce Rauner's page:

All of them have baggage. It may take an insider to straighten out the mess this state is in.... Does not look like he is stealing it [influence], it looks more like he is buying it. You need to understand that is the Chicago way, the Illinois way. We must understand are enemies in order to defeat them.

-Keith Becker

Rauner is a great businessman. Show me where he has been indicted or charged with a crime. He knows how to create jobs and make businesses grow. Have you looked at Illinois job loss stats lately?

-Gary Leming

We don't need democrats or republicans. We need good people to run. People that can't be corrupted by the system.

- Anonymous

If he does a good job, then I'm all for him, he's not doing it for the money.

- Terry Cornell

He [Rauner] has not denied that he has made donations to many causes. He has strongly denied any pay-for-play influence pedaling. I feel as if you are going to call him a 'billionaire' next and advocate raising the minimum wage to make things 'fair.'

- Will Hayes

This guy has given so much money for the children so, what, if he got a pass! If someone's doing a lot of good and they want something, so what? Every body who's complaining, should drop a few million into the school system. If I was him, I'd refuse to give any more money to education as all he does is get criticized. I would do the same thing for my kid. Rauner's kid was a straight-A student and she deserved to go wherever she wanted. If her dad's money could help her get in and HELP ALOT of other children too, what's the harm?

- Terry Cornell

17% returns - I don't think that is taking from the taxpayer - just the opposite. Show me names & performance of others [than Bruce Rauner] managing pension funds who have done better.

-Jonathan Knight Even Tribune columnist Eric Zorn has gotten into the act:

I didn't have to play that game with my elder son, who easily tested into Payton in 2004, but I can't blame many of those who did. "Nothin' wrong" with asking for a favor, after all, when favors were going to be doled out anyway.

According to these comments, use of clout and influence peddling are "OK" if coupled with significant contributions. Merit no longer matters and if someone is able to secure regular insider deals that indicates they know how to work "within the system" and that is a good thing.


After years of railing against corrupt pay-to-play schemes and insider deals, now Republicans are forced into a position of defending Rauner's insider record. My how things change.

And the squirming has just begun.