Bill Daley and Bruce Rauner: Birds of a feather

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Bill Daley, explaining on Tuesday why he was bowing out of the governor's race
Bill Daley, who pursued the Democratic nomination for governor relentlessly for 97 days before throwing in the towel Monday, is now showing how loyal he is to his party.

But before we talk about that, let's go back to June 11, when Daley announced he was running. Daley said in a video then: "We need a governor that takes the field, takes command and gets things done. . . . This will be a campaign of action and urgency, because that's the leadership the people of Illinois deserve."

Daley, 65, had never run for office. He had a history of holding his hat over the ring and then yanking it back. But this time was going to be different. Peter Giangreco, a Daley strategist, assured the Sun-Times that Daley was “totally committed" to the race. "He's 100 percent in.”

David Axelrod, another noted political strategist and a Daley friend, said of Daley's decision to enter the race: "This is obviously a difficult time for the state, but if you believe in public service, that's when you want to serve."

In the end, Daley apparently did not believe enough in public service in difficult times. In just over three months, his commitment to the race declined by 100 percent. In an interview Monday night with a Tribune reporter, he offered his reasons for dropping out. They boiled down to "Being governor sounds hard."

And then on Tuesday, Daley told Michael Sneed of the Sun-Times he thinks Governor Pat Quinn "will be beaten by any one of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates in the general election." And that among the Republicans, "Bruce Rauner is the strongest candidate."

Bruce Rauner, seeking the Republican nomination for governor, talks to supporters at the state fair in Springfield in August.
  • AP Photo/Seth Perlman
  • Bruce Rauner, seeking the Republican nomination for governor, talks to supporters at the state fair in Springfield in August.

Whoa. I'm wondering what his father would have thought of that. Richard J. Daley was many things, but above all he was a Democrat.

Most Illinois voters probably don't care much about which candidate Bill Daley favors. But Daley's statement about Rauner may give Rauner's campaign more credibility among the people who matter—the big campaign contributors.

But why is Bill Daley dissing the Democratic incumbent, and boosting his Republican challenger?

There are presumably some other hidden reasons, but perhaps it's mainly because Daley has more in common with a corporate guy like Rauner than he does with a Democrat like Quinn.

Rauner is a multimillionaire venture capitalist. Daley has been president and chief operating officer of Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, president of SBC Communications, and midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase. He's also been commerce secretary, and he put in a year as chief of staff to President Obama, succeeding another Rauner buddy, Rahm Emanuel, in 2011.

And both Rauner and the Daleys believe in putting family first.

Rauner, you may recall—though Rauner hopes you won't—apparently used his influence in 2008 to help his daughter get into Payton College Prep, the prestigious Chicago high school.

In April, Crain's Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz reported that Rauner's daughter had tried to get into Payton, but her test scores and grades had left her just shy of admission. Rauner called Arne Duncan, who was then the CEO of CPS and is now the U.S. education secretary. A Duncan aide called the Payton principal, after which Rauner's daughter was admitted, apparently through a "principal discretion" process that allowed for up to 5 percent of admittees. (Political clout was not supposed to be a reason for a principal to exercise "discretion.")

"It's all baloney," Rauner told the Sun-Times, about Hinz's claims. "It's stuff that doesn't matter. It may have partial truths in it. It's all part of the process of slinging mud early against someone who's doing really strong."

I suppose Rauner thinks it's "stuff that doesn't matter" because the integrity of a person who would be governor is nothing to worry about in Illinois.

Rauner's campaign also said in a statement that the Rauner family was "not going to allow their children to be used as a political football."

Old Man Daley fully supported the idea of a person using his influence to help his offspring, as he made clear in a memorable episode 40 years ago.

In February 1973, the Chicago Today revealed that $2.9 million in city insurance premiums had been shifted to an Evanston insurance firm, Heil & Heil, right after Richard J.'s son, John, had joined the firm. The city controller soon acknowledged that this had been done at the mayor's request. There were disclosures on the heels of this about two other Daley sons, mayor-to-be Richard and Michael, getting lucrative court appointments from circuit court judges.

The newspapers had a field day. The Tribune said in an editorial that the insurance scandal "symbolizes a system that permeates almost every aspect of government's relations with business in this city"—a system, the Trib said, that was driven by clout.

Daley promptly responded. At a meeting of the Cook County Central Committee in a downtown hotel, he said of his critics, "If I can't help my sons then they can kiss my ass." (Or, as the Tribune delicately reported it: "If I can't help my sons then they can kiss — —-.")

Daley also said at the party meeting, "If a man can't put his arms around his sons, then what kind of a world are we living in?" The ward bosses in the room gave him a standing ovation.

Rauner thus far has not said, "If I can't help my daughter then they can kiss — —". And I don't believe he's the kind of person who would ever say such a thing before he was elected.

As for Bill Daley's favorable appraisal of Rauner—if a Democrat can't put his arms around a venture capitalist, then what kind of a world are we living in?

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