The Chicago Sun-Times has a front-page story today on a firm, Synagro Technologies Inc., that Republican challenger Bruce Rauner’s former venture capital firm, GTCR, once invested in.
Reporter Dan Mihalopoulos doesn’t waste much time drawing conclusions that really aren’t supported by the facts of the case.
His track record as a businessman should be the strong point of Bruce Rauner’s sales pitch for the governor’s office. Instead, it’s become possibly the greatest liability for the wealthy Republican nominee.
“Nobody in my firm was ever accused of wrongdoing,” Rauner told reporters recently, as he was again forced to defend the business ethics of the GTCR private-equity firm he started in Chicago.
Rauner “was again forced to defend the business ethics” of GTCR because reporters like Mihalopoulos keep bringing up court cases in which neither Rauner nor GTCR have been accused of wrongdoing, nor are they defendants.
While Rauner and others at GTCR have never been charged, executives of companies they backed financially have ended up in legal trouble.
That doesn’t stop Mihalopoulos from concluding, “It seems every day brings another story placing Rauner and GTCR’s reputation in deeper doubt.”
What makes this all the more disturbing is the fact that questioning Rauner’s character as a businessman is a tactic straight out of Pat Quinn’s re-election playbook. The incumbent governor has no positives in his record to run on, so he’s raising questions about Rauner’s business dealings.
While the media is busy detailing imaginary ties between Rauner and these scandals, hardly ever mentioned is the fact that Quinn was the running mate of Rod Blagovich, the disgraced Illinois governor who’s now in prison. Or that two Quinn programs — the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, and hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation — are now under investigation. These are real investigations directly connected to the governor that are taking place right here in Illinois, not tangentially related cases in some other state.
The Sun-Times story goes on to detail how Houston-based Synagro and one of its executives, James Rosendall, pleaded guilty to bribery in 2009.
Rosendall’s push on Synagro’s behalf intensified in 2007. That was shortly before the company won a sludge contract worth a billion dollars from Detroit officials — and not long after GTCR had divested its majority stake in Synagro.
In other words, much of the corruption at Synagro took place after GTCR ceased having any involvement with the company.
This is a common theme in the coverage of the Illinois gubernatorial campaign. The Illinois media have been detailing a nursing-home fraud case currently being tried in Florida. That case, too, involved a firm that Rauner and GTCR had once invested in, but held no interest in when the fraud occurred.
Again, those facts haven’t stopped the media from smearing Rauner. Sun-Times reporter Natasha Korecki recently wrote, “Quinn turned the tables on Rauner, pointing to the indictment on fraud charges last month of two former employees of a subsidiary to a firm Rauner’s former private equity company helped found.”
In other words, it’s all guilt by association.
Rich Miller, the former Mike Madigan staffer who runs Capitol Fax, the must-read for Illinois statehouse reporters, piles on with a story headlined, “Another day, another GTCR revelation”:
Chartered jets to Las Vegas, paying off the mayor’s father to get city business, etc. And, of course, GTCR cashed out just in time.
If the media were more objective, and not just carrying water for the Quinn campaign, they’d be asking: Why hasn’t Bruce Rauner or GTCR been charged? After all, both of the cases listed above were/are big federal prosecutions, involving lawyers who know what they’re doing. If the ties to GTCR and Rauner are so strong, why haven’t the feds indicted the gubernatorial candidate or his firm?
We won’t wait to see that report.
But we’ll keep watching…and reporting.