Tom Kacich: Hays cashes Rauner check, passes money on

Tom Kacich: Hays cashes Rauner check, passes money on

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State Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, got an $8,000 campaign contribution from Gov. Bruce Rauner on May 5, but he didn't cash the check until Monday.

And then he sent the money to the House Republican Organization instead of using it for his own campaign.

"I'm basically just sending it to the team, so to speak," said Hays, an assistant Republican leader in the House GOP caucus. "We think that in the next election cycle (2016) it could be a good year for House Republican candidates and, number two, as a member of our leadership, I have a heightened responsibility to the team, anyway. We decided that the best thing to do would be to send it on to help the entirety of our candidates into the next election cycle."

The $8,000 check Hays received 2-1/2 months ago from Citizens for Rauner Inc. is among $400,000 that Rauner's campaign distributed to Republicans in the House and Senate. It raised eyebrows at the time because it came in the last weeks of the spring legislative session and was viewed by some as an incentive for Republicans to stay in line with Rauner's agenda.

"There's a lot of pressure from all the special interest groups that don't want to change," the governor said at the time. "We're a super-minority. To have more influence on the process, we need to stay unified."

Some Republican lawmakers cashed the checks right away; others waited until the end of the spring session; and others, like state Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, who also got $8,000, still haven't cashed them.

Hays said he didn't view the Rauner contribution as politically radioactive.

"I've had contributions from a wide variety of folks, from Governor Rauner to the Illinois Education Association and lots of private individuals. I don't see this as any different from the others," he said.

In the last quarter, Hays reported getting campaign contributions from three unions: the Illinois Federation of Teachers, an IBEW local in Danville and the Chicago Firefighters Union.

"In the big picture, the Speaker (Michael Madigan) certainly has given money to Democratic candidates forever, and, in some cases, the majority of their money. So when this came, it wasn't something that was unprecedented. When it came in May, we made a conscious decision to sit on it during regular session."

Hays on budget impasse

Hays said he isn't optimistic about a budget agreement between Rauner and the Democratic Legislature anytime soon.

"Ordinarily there's a deal brewing in the backroom, right? But I don't think there's a deal brewing," he said.

The two sides aren't even talking, as far as he's been able to determine.

"When I was (in Springfield) last week they hadn't met for two or three weeks. It's possible they met late last week, but I don't think there's any reason to believe there's been any major progress," he said. "I think this is how this ends: there will be budget cuts, there will be robust discussion about some new revenue and then there's going to have to be movement on some reform items the governor wants because I don't see the governor caving and agreeing to a budget with a net zero."

He sees a possible agreement involving a property tax freeze and workers compensation reforms, two items on Rauner's "turnaround agenda."

"I suspect — and things like right to work, that's not going to be called for a real vote and if it does there's nowhere close to enough votes for that to pass — so the real question is how does this plane land? I don't really have any answer for that except to say that they're miles apart on the discussion of revenue and the budget," Hays said. "Obviously the governor is not going to settle for nothing because if he does it would just be more of the same. And so the question is what subject matter is in play? I think a property tax discussion is in play. Obviously it would have to be nuanced because all of Illinois isn't the same."

Changes in the workers compensation system also should be considered, he said.

"I think that's maybe another area where there can be an accord, so to speak, so that we can move forward with everything else. My hope is when the smoke clears on all of this we can get to work on some things that need to be done in this state," he said, including a capital bill and assistance to rural school districts looking into consolidation.

"I think you're going to see a discussion of a pretty robust capital bill, maybe even a conduit for rural high schools. Even if we start with 10 or 12 or 15 a year, when people in rural communities make those extraordinarily difficult decisions about who are going to be our partners, one of the barriers to that has been whether the state would be an appropriate fiduciary partner. I would like to see as part of a large capital bill, money going for that as well, that if those communities make those very difficult choices that the state would be there with money to help build a new high school."

Mayoral spending

By now all of the campaign bills from the April 7 mayoral election in Champaign ought to be in, and the total spending by the four candidates is a Champaign mayoral campaign record — more than $141,000.

The biggest spender was the election winner, Deb Frank Feinen, at more than $68,165. That translates to $13.66 spent for of the 4,987 votes she got.

Former Mayor Don Gerard, who finished second in the race with 3,813 votes, spent $24,453, or $6.41 per vote.

Third-place finisher Joe Petry spent $33,362, or $14.80 per vote.

Karen Foster spent $15,147, or $13.59 per vote.

Four year earlier, in the two-way mayoral race between Gerard and then-Mayor Jerry Schweighart, less than $50,000 was spent by the two contenders.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at

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Bulldogmojo wrote on July 29, 2015 at 8:07 am


A sitting Governor paying bribes to his own party because he isn't confident his own party will sign off on his attack plan on the people of Illinois who live paycheck to paycheck.

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 29, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Nothing in the article mentions the Rauner Campaign giving out gift cards for votes during the last election.  Money buys everything even democracy.   "Down-state" residents will be the biggest losers in any deal made between Madigan, and Rauner.   Neither party will produce leadership for the citizens.  A third, fourth, or fifth party is needed to represent the citizens, and end the corruption.