Why would Bruce Rauner want to buy the governor's mansion?

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Wallpaper is buckling in the governors mansion, a spokesperson for Governor Pat Quinn showed earlier this month. Thats because of a leaky roof, which also has caused the basement to flood. Quinn recently authorized patching the roof.
  • AP Photo/The State Journal-Register, Justin L. Fowler
  • Wallpaper is buckling in the governor's mansion, a spokesperson for Governor Pat Quinn showed earlier this month. That's because of a leaky roof, which also has caused the basement to flood. Quinn recently authorized patching the roof.
Bruce Rauner last week gave another $1.5 million to his favorite candidate, Bruce Rauner, as my colleague Mick Dumke noted here Saturday. The multimultimillionaire has now given the Republican nominee for governor $8 million. I hope he's gracious enough to send himself a thank-you note.

And it's early. You can bet your bottom dollar that more dollars will sail from Rauner to Rauner between now and November.

You may be wondering why anyone would want this desperately to become governor of a financially troubled state.

Sure, it could be ego or a thirst for power. But maybe it's simply because Rauner believes so ardently in the integrity of the American political system that he's willing to buy a leading role in it.

There might be an additional reason, however.

Rauner has a weakness for property. He's got a penthouse on New York's Central Park, a waterfront villa in the Florida Keys, ranches in Montana and Wyoming, a mansion in Winnetka, and a penthouse and another unit in a high-rise overlooking Millennium Park.

That's an impressive portfolio—but it's conspicuously lacking in governors' mansions. Rauner may consider the $8 million he's contributed to himself so far a down payment on the 16-room, 159-year-old manor on Jackson Street in Springfield.

Rauner has tried to portray himself as an ordinary Joe. "He still drives a 20-year-old camper van," his website biography says. But he also clearly doesn't mind being thought of as the wealthy tycoon he is. He wants voters to believe he has the Midas touch, and that it would rub off on Illinois.

"I'm very thoughtful and disciplined with my money," Rauner told the Tribune last November. He added that he doesn't believe in spending it "frivolously." He's not going to buy any old villa or ranch or penthouse.

But if that's the case, he was a little careless with his due diligence on the governor's mansion.

The mansion has a leaky roof, and in June its basement flooded. Governor Pat Quinn, who wants voters to think he has the miser's touch, has covered some floors in the mansion with plastic and has stationed buckets under the leaks. Furniture has been removed from the Lincoln bedroom to protect it. Quinn finally gave in recently and approved an order authorizing patching the roof.

The mansion with the leaky roof is, in truth, a fitting metaphor for Illinois. The yawning hole in the roof is a $100 billion unfunded pension liability. A sweeping pension reform law enacted in December appears in jeopardy because of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling earlier this month.

Both Quinn and Rauner realize the roof must ultimately be fixed to put the state's house in order. Given the recent Supreme Court ruling, it's not clear how they'd get that to happen. One hundred billion is a few more dollars than even Rauner has. And here the candidates are in a role-reversal. It's tightwad Quinn who favors a higher income tax, maintaining that more must be spent to prevent further damage until the major repairs are made. Rauner supports a lower income tax, which would take billions from the budget—and he hasn't explained how this would leave money for even buckets under the leaks.

Rauner also wants a freeze on property taxes. "No more property tax hikes without taxpayer approval," his platform declares. It's a sensible stance on property for someone who owns so much of it.

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