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Quinn: Rauner’s self-financing ‘obliterated’ spirit of campaign finance law

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says Bruce Rauner “obliterated” an ethics law that Quinn signed and that Rauner’s recent decision to deposit $20 million into his campaign fund was “thumbing his nose” at campaign finance reforms in Illinois.

Quinn made the comments in a sit-down interview with the Sun-Times just three days before he heads out of office. Come Monday, Republican Gov.-elect Rauner will be sworn in.

Quinn kept his feelings for Rauner thinly veiled during the interview, never mentioning the venture capitalist by name, but castigating the multimillionaire’s self-financing during the campaign.

Rauner’s initial $250,000 donation to himself during the governor’s race lifted limits on campaign donations that otherwise would have been in place. Both Rauner and Quinn – as well as Rauner’s primary opponents — benefitted from campaign donations above the limits. Rauner’s some $65 million in spending was about double what Quinn’s campaign spent.

“I signed a law, long overdue in Illinois on campaign finance reform. I abided by the law and the limits every step of the way for three years. . . . They broke the limits,” he said, referring to Rauner.

“I thought it was good for democracy and the democracy of Illinois to not have an avalanche of money.”

Quinn also criticized Rauner for depositing $20 million — $10 million from himself, $8 million from billionaire Ken Griffin and $2 million from a third businessman.

“I think on the last day of the cycle, again, [it’s] thumbing your nose at the spirit of the law, to say the least, of having three extremely wealthy people dump $20 million into the election system,” the governor said.

“I can’t tell you how many time your papers and others said Illinois was the Wild West; we should have reasonable limits on campaign donations. I got that done. Somebody basically obliterated it.”

Republican consultant and strategist Pat Brady had a different take on the $20 million.

“It levels the playing field on resources, and that’s always been the problem with Republicans since they’ve been out of the governor’s mansion,” he said.

Looking back on his tenure, Quinn said he “makes no apologies” and has “no regrets” over his six years in office. And he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of his appearing on a ballot one day in the future.

“I have no idea. I’m not even thinking about it right now,” Quinn said of someday running again for office. “But you will see Pat Quinn passing petitions. . . . When you lose an election you don’t lose your life. You move on to something else.”

Quinn vowed to work every minute he could in his last few days in office but wouldn’t commit on whether he would issue medical marijuana permits before leaving office Monday afternoon.

Quinn did consider hundreds of clemency petitions on Friday, granting clemency in 232 cases and denying 262 petitions.

Quinn, who will not be attending Rauner’s inaugural ceremony in Springfield on Monday, talked at some length about money in politics, saying he feared the wealthiest were gaining an unfair advantage across the country — and in Illinois.

Rauner had criticized Quinn and other top state lawmakers throughout the campaign for being beholden to special-interest groups, including public-sector unions.

Quinn talked about Griffin, who was Rauner’s top donor throughout the 2014 campaign.

“I had a chance to visit with that man once. He was in my office. Pleasant guy. But his philosophy, I completely disagree with. It’s a very Libertarian, scorched-earth approach [against] using the power of the government to help people. He would not be very sympathetic to them. So, I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Quinn said.

“There is a force unfortunately in our country that wants to use the power of government to help people who are wealthy. I know they were not on our side in this election. I think it’s not healthy that a billionaire, he happens to be one, can basically thumb their nose at our campaign contribution limits.”