Reboot Illinois has a he said-she said column today penned by Dave Lundy and Chris Robling.
For those of you who have lives, Dave McKinney was the Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times who resigned after Republican gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner complained to management that McKinney had a conflic of interest because his wife works for a Democrat media spin shop in Springfield that has done anti-Rauner attack ads for Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign.
Lundy’s piece is interesting because he starts out saying it was much ado about nothing, but then spend the rest of the piece talking about what a big deal it was.
As someone who has worked in both supportive and adversarial ways with Dave McKinney, I am outraged and saddened by this pathetic and unnecessary turn of events. It is perfectly normal and expected for campaigns to push back on negative stories. It’s what PR people like me get paid to do and I’ve done it with many. I always tell my clients that in any negative story, if we can’t kill it, our fight is for context and fairness. Reporters have a job to do and we need to understand and respect that job.
But what happened here is different, and almost Nixonian in its malevolence.
Lundy calls the Rauner camp’s actions “over the top” and concludes with this:
Of course the greatest irony about this debacle is that while the Rauner folks desperately wanted to bury McKinney’s story about the former executive Rauner allegedly threatened to “bury,” through their ham-handed actions, they have now brought it exponentially greater attention. So they failed in their jobs and cost a truly class act his.
Most of Lundy’s piece is nothing we haven’t heard before, basically defending McKinney and his wife as “class acts.” But no one’s disputing their character; what’s at issue is whether they had a conflict of interest.
Robling’s piece is much more interesting because it reveals details we haven’t heard before, and doubt the voters have either.
In short, Robling says the Sun-Times brass, including Editor Jim Kirk, blew it.
Because in the end, no disclosure, discussions or separations could or did overcome the fact that when the fiancé / wife is in a firm with folks who are trashing Rauner under another firm’s banner in the same office, she is going to benefit in the future if she — and they — can say, “these folks here had a hand in defeating Bruce Rauner.”
Viewed alternatively, none of her colleagues — or her, as their co-worker — would benefit by saying, one year from now, “someone spent a lot of money with us to trash Rauner, and we failed. Please hire us.”
Jim’s course was to take Dave off of Gubernatorial anything for the duration. No official, no political, no Democrat, no Republican, no campaign, no machinations. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Had Jim done so, or had Dave insisted he do so, Dave would be at the Sun-Times today.
Furthermore, he says that the story of Christine Kirk — the Rauner exec who claimed he threatened her — was also a nonstory because she not only contradicted herself in testimony, but the case was largely dismissed.
This is shown by Kirk contradicting her complaint’s Rauner-as-bully horror story — which was the heart of the Sun-Times’ article – in her deposition. She states definitively, in response to several questions, that Rauner treated her professionally (that is, Rauner was not the abusive, threatening, condescending, etc., boss/investor she had portrayed him as in her complaint, and as the Sun-Times portrayed him in its McKinney co-by-lined article).
Rauner was not deposed, which means Ms. Kirk and her fellow plaintiffs were not pursuing her “he was too tough on me” claim.
So, rather than a ‘window into Rauner’s methods,’ as the Sun-Times touted, the article was only a window into an early version of one side of a personal interaction within a contested investment implosion. Others have pointed out most of the case was dismissed on a motion by defendants (Rauner and his colleagues) for summary judgment. Once largely dismissed, none of Ms. Kirk’s assertions about Rauner — or anyone else — were subjected to the elements of due process, such as confrontation and cross-examination, that are our system’s hallmarks. That would have strengthened the basis for the Sun-Times’ promise of an “insider’s view…”
Instead, Ms. Kirk’s non-adjudicated early version of her own changing story was delivered to Sun-Times readers as a complete picture and a significant Rauner close-up.
Bad business, my friends A bad day at the paper.
But we’ll keep watching…and reporting.