Rauner: No conflict of interest in groups paying for inauguration

SHARE Rauner: No conflict of interest in groups paying for inauguration
SHARE Rauner: No conflict of interest in groups paying for inauguration

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner campaigned on a theme of shaking up Springfield — often railing against special interests he said were too cozy with the state powerbrokers they donated money to.

But Sunday, on the eve of his inauguration, Rauner said a bevy of companies and industry groups that donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for his inaugural festivities do not present a conflict of interest

LIVE BLOG: Festivities kick off for Bruce Rauner’s inauguration

The groups all have an interest in public-policy decisions and range from the Illinois Hospital Association, which donated up to $100,000, to the Wirtz Corp. and Walgreen Co., which donated up to $25,000 each.

“Those are groups that do not do business with the government,” Rauner said, differentiating his inauguration donors from other groups that “contract with the state directly.”

He said money coming from groups that have state contracts would not be welcome. “That’s where we do not want to have financial dealings,” he said.

Rauner made the comments during a visit to an Uptown soup kitchen, where he and his wife, Diana, served a lunch of chicken and steamed vegetables to the needy.

“Service. Giving back to the community, helping those in need and working for all the families … in this state is what we are about,” Rauner said in the basement of the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence.

“We are here today to be of service. We’re honored and humbled to do that.”

The made-for-TV event was Rauner’s last Chicago appearance before heading to Springfield for inauguration festivities.

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The Rauners talk with the cooks at the Preston Bradley Center on Sunday. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

He used the occasion to call for spending and ethical reforms, and vowed to issue a series of executive orders after taking office that he said will “set the tone.”

Combating a stigma of Republicans for being uncaring, Rauner also made clear that he supports social services. Spending reforms he has in mind could mean more money for such programs, he said.

“We need to make sure the government is well run, because every dollar that’s spent inside government unnecessarily is a dollar that we can’t bring into social services programs — just like here — to help those in need,” he said, referring to the soup kitchen.

Rauner has called for the comptroller’s office to be merged with the state treasurer’s office, which he says could save the state $12 million.

“You know, everywhere we look we’re finding that there’s significant spending that’s really not necessary,” he said. “How many people in need could we support with $12 million. That’s a lot a lot of support, and that’s just one small example of what we might be able to do.”

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Bruce Rauner leaves the Preston Bradley Center on Sunday. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

Rauner also said his appointment of the Rev. James Meeks, a former Democratic state lawmaker who crossed party lines to support Rauner’s candidacy, to lead the state board of education was not politically motivated.

“Well, first of all, he didn’t donate to my campaign,” Rauner said. “He and I have worked together for many many years on education reform. … He’s dedicated much of his life to making sure public education is outstanding.”

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