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Governor Spends $16 Million, Insists He's Not Involved In Legislative Campaigns

Amanda Vinicky

The November election will determine if the balance of power in Illinois politics tips in a direction that will help Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner carry out his agenda or whether Democrats will maintain enough seats to stand in his way. Even with that at stake, Rauner is professing a hands-off approach.

Before he was governor, Rauner was a private equity investor. He became rich by keeping a sharp eye on his investments.

But Rauner says he is not taking the same approach to politics.

This election, he's given the Illinois Republican Party roughly $16 million dollars -- money that's being spent on state legislative races. But despite that substantial investment, Rauner has repeatedly denied any involvement in the campaigns.

"Yeah, I'm asked that all the time and I do want to emphasize: I'm really not involved. People say, 'Well, governor, you must be involved in these races.' I'm really not involved in races," he said this week. "I'm encouraging everybody who ... might be a public servant to get involved, I'm doing that; but I'm not involved in races per se -- predicting races or advising races. I'm not involved in that," he said this week.

More than a dozen seats could be in play in the Illinois House. There are also a handful of competitive Senate races. Illinois Democrats currently hold large enough majorities that they've been able to block Rauner's attempts to significantly weaken labor unions.

Rauner and his aides have been active in filling seats vacated by Republican legislators, and Rauner actively campaigned against a pro-union Republican in the primary.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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