Why anyone, let alone a multimillionaire Republican venture capitalist, would want to be governor of Illinois is as great a mystery as how someone motivates a down-in-the-dumps college basketball team to suddenly turn its season around.
The state government is a mess, other states are aggressively luring Illinois businesses and brainpower, and it's impossible to get anything done in Springfield unless longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan signs off on it.
So here's Bruce Rauner, Exhibit G of the Rich Guys Who Want to be Governor or U.S. Senator from Illinois. Rauner is spending these dreary winter days meeting Republicans in Champaign, Springfield, Mount Vernon and Rockford, introducing himself at Lincoln Day dinners, receptions and luncheons, and preparing to run — and spend lots of money — in a race for the Republican nomination for governor next year.
Exhibits A through F include a host of rich guys who spent lots of money but came up short: Andy McKenna, Adam Andrezejewski, Jim Oberweis, Ron Gidwitz, Blair Hull and Jack Ryan. They've all run either for governor or U.S. senator and, for various reasons, never made it to the general election.
Rauner's strategy appears to be to lay the financial groundwork through years of campaign contributions. Since 1998, he and his wife, Diana, have given at least $1.46 million to various state candidates, committees and political action groups. They've also spent at least $250,000 at the federal level.
The Rauners really upped their game last year, dropping at least $500,000 on groups ranging from Citizens for a Better Quincy to the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee to a federal super PAC supporting Mitt Romney.
And while Bruce Rauner gave all of his money last year to Republican candidates, pro-business groups and conservative PACs, his wife sent money to the abortion-rights-supporting Personal PAC Inc. In earlier years, she also supported a number of Democratic candidates. And Bruce Rauner, who is close to Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, historically has given more to former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ($200,000) and former Cook County Board member (and now Chicago Transit Authority President) Forest Claypool ($250,000) than any other candidate.
But Rauner, who lives in Winnetka, doesn't talk about that in his stump speech. Instead, he pounds away at Republican ideals and invokes the names of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
"My goal is to bring discipline and results to government. It doesn't exist in Illinois. Mitch Daniels runs Indiana like a business. Rick Snyder runs Michigan like a business. We need that here in Illinois," Rauner told Champaign County Republicans last week. "We need to deliver value for taxpayers. We need to cut our costs, drive efficiency, drive effectiveness, create the best education system in America. That's what our children deserve. We don't have it in Illinois anymore. We did many years ago."
Rauner's chief issue, up to now, has been support for charter schools and opposition to teacher unions. But he didn't mention either of those topics in his brief speech to the local Republicans.
Goetten shuts down committee
Matt Goetten, who was defeated last year for the Democratic nomination in the 13th Congressional District, has terminated his campaign committee.
The former Greene County state's attorney, who was beaten by Bloomington physician David Gill last March, closed his Federal Election Commission account on Jan. 31, showing no cash on hand and $49,585 in campaign debts. All of the debt is personal — only $415 paid back from a $50,000 loan Goetten made to the campaign.
Since leaving the Greene County prosecutor's office last December, Goetten has been hired as a special prosecutor with the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.
Big progress for women in Springfield
The new Illinois General Assembly, seated last month, includes 57 women out of 177 members.
That compares with 10 women out of 236 Illinois state legislators 40 years ago. At that time, there were two female state senators, both Democrats, out of 59, and eight state representatives out of 177. Six of the eight state representatives were Republicans.
Today's Legislature includes 15 female senators, 11 of them Democrats, and 42 female state representatives, 31 of them Democrats.
The highest-ranking female legislator, however, is Republican Senate Minority Leader Christine Radagno of Lemont.
The first female legislator in Illinois was Republican Lottie Holman O'Neill of Downers Grove, who was elected to the House in 1922.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.