Days following the outcome of the historic Illinois state budget crisis, Governor Bruce Rauner remained closed off from the public. After the devastating result that his Turnaround Agenda had failed in the Springfield sessions and overtime sessions, something was cooking in the governor’s office. With his campaign already in progress for re-election next year, he has decided to switch gears and attack from a different angle by removing some of his top officials and replacing them with a new alt-right conservative team.
On July 10, the first off of his list was his former Chief of Staff, Rich Goldberg, who has aided the governor since he began his first term on January 12, 2015. Goldberg was Rauner’s top aide to the governor’s administration as well as his top campaign advisor. However, there are contradicting sources that announced whether he was fired or he voluntarily re-assigned himself to national security and consulting. Among the officials removed was Rauner’s former Communications Director Brad Hahn, and Catherine Kelly who was Rauner’s spokesperson and Deputy Director of Communications.
New to the governor’s team is former Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) President and Chief Operating Officer, and former Breitbart columnist, Kristina Rasmussen. The IPI is Illinois’ most conservative think-tank that has received hefty donations from Bruce Rauner while he was a member of Golder, Thoma, Cressey, Rauner, Inc. (GTCT LLC). The funding to IPI was between 2009-2013 at the approximated amount of $525,000 in donations. Rauner was one of the founders as well as the Chairman of the Chicago-based private equity firm that is worth $11 billion.
Follow the money and you will find the corruption. Now, within his last year of his first term, he’s cashing in on his investment and bringing in assistance from the far right. Although Rasmussen called the Governor out on his leniency towards income tax hikes a few years ago, it appears that they’ve quickly reconciled and are now setting the layout for hard-hitting new tactics. Upon her leaving at the Illinois Policy Institute, the staff published a farewell address for their President:
“The 32 percent tax hike without reform that the General Assembly just passed illustrates the imperative to win the fight to put the people of Illinois first. We must reform the system that has allowed House Speaker Mike Madigan and his political machine to create such hardship for working families. With the governor’s decision to add Kristina to his team, Illinois taxpayers and families have an effective and proven champion on their side.”
Although, not everyone is convinced of Kristina’s intentions as the governor’s new chief of staff. His opposition running for the 2018 election for Governor is State Senator Daniel Biss from Illinois’ 9th District. His bid is supported by 2,700 small donors and is leading in the progressive grassroots communities. Senator Biss expressed serious concern about the former Breitbart writer joining the governor’s administration, his website declared:
“And today Kristina Rasmussen, a former Breitbart columnist and most recently president of the Illinois Policy Institute, a right-wing organization hell-bent on destroying Medicaid, unions, and the minimum wage, was just hired as Rauner’s chief of staff.”
However on July 10, Rasmussen did not waste any time on her first day as chief of staff as she sent a memo out to the governor’s administration about four key areas that she wants to focus on. The first point is to address ideas for transforming Illinois and to refer to the Completed Staff Work. She said, “Please share with me your best ideas for transforming Illinois through better public policy and improved operations by Friday at 3:00 p.m. I follow the approach of Completed Staff Work; this will give you guidance on how to present your ideas.”
The second key area is to get stories from the public to ensure their normalcy as Illinoisans. The memo continued, “We’re going to share incredible stories of the men, women, and children who deserve a revitalized Illinois. More information will follow, but here’s a good overview of where we are headed.”
She then goes on to encourage ideas for excellence and having a mutual respect paired with radical candor, “I’m looking for your excellence. How can you approach an aspect of your work in a new and better way today? Mutual respect paired with radical candor will make this an even greater place to work.” I attempted to follow any responses on her social media pages but her Twitter account is blocked from public access unless given approval.
Amongst the newly hired staff members, the administration brought in three more members from the Illinois Policy Institute. The new Deputy Chief of Staff for policy is Michael Lucci, the former Vice President of IPI. Next is Laurel Patrick as the new Director of Communications, who previously worked as the Press Secretary for Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker’s from March of 2014 to April of 2016 after he gutted public sector unions. Lastly is Jean Hutton who was the former director for IPI and her responsibilities included financial management, payroll administration, human resources, compliance and office administration and is now Rasmussen’s special assistant in the Rauner Administration. On Monday, July 17, the newest member is Matthew Besler, the President of the Illinois Opportunity Project, who has been hired as Rauner’s chief strategist advisor.
Tension is certainly rising as opposing officials make their plea for Governor in 2018. Bruce Rauner has already committed $70 million towards his re-election campaign and others are stepping up to the plate to take on one of the nation’s most critical positions. Another contestant is J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat who is the co-founder of the Pritzker Group that is a private investment firm, worth roughly $3.4 billion. He has already spent $14 million on his campaign for 2018. Politico reported Pritzker’s statement on the Governor’s new chief of staff, “Rasmussen has a radical conservative record, signaling that stubborn Rauner is [in] no way ready to compromise.”
The upcoming election for governor is speculated to be one of the most expensive races at the approximate amount of $300 million in a time where Illinois taxpayers are being squeezed for every dime they have left.
The currents are shifting farther right on the governor’s team and it seems that once again, money is being dumped into campaigns instead of the communities that have been suffering for decades, especially these last two years. The new staff we see developing in Bruce Rauner’s administration is linked by a history of donor contributions, and now they will set a new approach that may indicate questionable motives for the future of Illinois in the upcoming election year.
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