Gov. Bruce Rauner reported $176 million in taxable income last year, according to personal income-tax returns for 2015 he released Friday — days after a general election in which he poured more than $30 million into political campaigns across the state.
Altogether, Rauner reported $187 million in gross income — more than three times the $58 million the Republican governor and his wife had reported in 2014.
According to the federal and state tax documents he released Friday, Rauner’s federal tax liability was $43.3 million, an effective federal tax rate of about 24 percent. He also paid $6.9 million in state taxes.
Asked about his tax returns on Friday, Rauner said he’s proud he “made a lot of money” for himself and for school teachers and other government workers who benefited from pension funds his firm invested. The governor said he plans on giving much of his wealth away.
“You know I believe as the good book says, to whom much has been given, from whom much is expected in return,” Rauner told reporters at an event in Downstate Champaign. “I’ve been very blessed. I didn’t inherit any money but worked hard, did well. Um, and as I told my six kids, they’re not going to inherit much of it. We’re going to be giving it away.”
Rauner said he plans to do that personally and through his foundation. Tax records for the foundation released Friday showed Rauner’s foundation received $7 million in donations, presumably from the governor, and spent $2.4 million on charitable expenses. The Rauner Family Foundation had assets valued at $43 million, an amount slightly smaller than what Rauner has donated to his political campaign, Citizens for Rauner, according to data from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Rauner isn’t required to release his tax returns, though it has long been a common practice for Illinois governors and political candidates to do so. House Speaker Michael Madigan, Rauner’s political nemesis and the state’s most powerful Democrat, did not respond to a request from the Chicago Sun-Times for copies of his tax returns.
Rauner didn’t make public his full returns, though, which would include schedules he filed to claim exemptions and charitable donations other than those to his foundation.
Rauner — who made his millions as a private equity manager and venture capitalist before launching his political career with his 2014 run for governor — had released his past tax returns earlier in the year. The date on the forms released Friday seems to indicate they were filed on Oct. 10. Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly noted that the governor placed his vast assets in a blind trust. She did not offer an explanation for why the value of those assets had apparently tripled in the last year.
Rauner’s vast wealth is well-known, but his political advisers probably withheld releasing his returns to the public during the election cycle out of an abundance of caution as state Democrats tried to link the governor to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at University of Illinois-Springfield. Trump, reportedly a billionaire, has refused to release his tax returns, breaking with decades-old tradition among presidential candidates.
“Everybody knows [Rauner] has a ton of money, and he’s spending a ton of money on the legislative races,” Redfield said.
The financial backing from the governor and a few millionaire supporters provided about 90 percent of the campaign money spent by Republican candidates across the state, records show.
Rauner — who has estimated his net worth at about $500 million — has poured money into his own campaign as well as those of favored Republican candidates and even Democratic lawmakers willing to buck their party to support his political agenda.
Rauner’s returns show his personal resources aren’t bottomless, but they are very, very deep, Redfield said.
“He may have a limit to how much he’s willing to put into Illinois politics before it starts to affect his own condition and his kids’ inheritance,” Redfield said, noting that Rauner also has the support of fellow conservative millionaires, including the state’s richest man, Ken Griffin.
“His friend Ken Griffin really doesn’t have any limits to what he can spend, but I don’t think [Rauner] really wants to sustain what he’s been putting in for the last four years,” Redfield said. “If it was just his wallet, I don’t think the Democrats would be as worried about him putting up his money. But his friends have plenty more.”
Democrats in Illinois have long raised more campaign cash than Republicans, thanks in large measure to contributions from labor groups that often are funneled through campaign funds controlled by Madigan.