SPRINGFIELD-Republican Bruce Rauner called on Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday to disassociate himself from one-time chief of staff Jack Lavin, who has emerged as a central figure in both a patronage-hiring ethics probe and a federal investigation into a 2010 anti-violence grant program.
“He’s part of the corruption in Springfield, part of the patronage of Springfield. He’s under investigation. He is not cooperating with the investigation, and Pat Quinn has got to end the corruption by speaking out against what Jack Lavin is doing,” Rauner told reporters.
The Winnetka Republican made his remarks at a joint campaign appearance with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, at a downtown Springfield sports bar a few steps from what once was Barack Obama’s favorite capital city restaurant.
During a debate Tuesday, Quinn acknowledged that Lavin played a role in recommending patronage hires to the state Department of Transportation. Last month, a report by state Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza questioned the legality of more than 250 hires into IDOT jobs in which politics wasn’t supposed to be a factor under Quinn and imprisoned predecessor Rod Blagojevich.
Lavin, who left state government in 2013 and now is a lobbyist, also had his emails related to Quinn’s failed Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence grant program subpoenaed in July by federal investigators probing the state grant program.
“I’m calling on Pat Quinn to speak out now, tell everyone in the admin, everyone in the General Assembly, ‘Do not speak to Jack Lavin.’ We have to end lobbyists who come from the government, engage in corruption and then make more money engaging in the government process,” Rauner said.
Lavin has not been charged with any wrongdoing. A messageleft on his cell phone voice mail was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Christie praised Rauner for slamming Lavin.
“What you just heard from Bruce is indicative of why he’s become such a strong candidate. He speaks his mind. He tells people exactly the way he’d handle things if confronted with similar circumstances, and he makes sure he’s holding Governor Quinn to account,” Christie said. “Those are things that are all laudable qualities of a potential governor and, I think, important issues in this campaign.”
With Christie in tow, Rauner held a series of fundraisers in Springfield Wednesday, including one put together in part by road builder Jim Bruner, a former Teachers Retirement System board member who is also is a board member of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association.
Bruner’s name surfaced during the sentencing of convicted Springfield powerbroker William Cellini, whom federal prosecutors alleged help engineer Bruner’s 2002 appointment to the TRS board after giving $10,000 to the legal defense fund of former Gov. George Ryan. Bruner was never accused of wrongdoing.
Told of Bruner’s background, Rauner was asked if he was the same type of Springfield insider that Rauner made Lavin out to be.
“I don’t know the facts of what you’re describing,” Rauner said in the only question he took directly from reporters Wednesday. “We have come from several fundraisers here in Springfield, and I was honored to have Jim Bruner to be part leader of that process.”
Quinn’s campaign said the governor has no reason to distance himself or his administration from Lavin.
“There is no disassociation necessary,” Quinn campaign spokeswoman Izabela Miltko said. “Mr. Lavin has not worked for the state for more than a year.
“And we don’t agree with Mr. Rauner’s ‘demonizing’ approach when it comes to campaigning. Whether it’s teachers, public employees or former state workers who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, Rauner will bully and smear anyone in his way,” she said.
Meanwhile, Christie responded to Quinn’s comments from earlier in the day when the governor said the New Jersey governor, whenever he comes to Illinois, likes “eating nails” and then “spitting” them out at him.
“Well, if there’s anybody who’s an expert at eating nails for breakfast and spitting them out, it’s Gov. Pat Quinn. If he gives me that evaluation, that’s coming from a high source for somebody who’s nasty,” Christie said.
Christie addressed the minimum-wage debate in Illinois when asked whether a successful push last fallto raise the minimum wage in his home state via constitutional amendment put him and other Republicans out of step with voters on the issue. In November, despite Christie’s vocal opposition,60 percent of New Jersey voters supported the amendment raising the minimum wage and tying future raises to the rate of inflation.
“No, it doesn’t. What folks need to understand is there are two completely diff approaches to economic growth. Gov. Quinn aspires to be the highest goal someone can achieve would be a higher minimum wage. Bruce Rauner aspires for everybody in Illinois to have an opportunity to be the best they can be, and that’s a diff philosophical growth to economic growth,” he said.
“Gov. Quinn’s approach to economic growth is government control in the minimum possible that someone can make. Bruce Rauner is letting the free market system work well with appropriate government regulation and to have people aspire to be the very best they can be,” the governor said.
Rauner, who abandoned the clunker van he took to earlier appearances, arrived at Wednesday’s stop in a late-model Chevrolet Tahoe sports utility vehicle.