SNEED: Rauner tosses more overboard — as navigator jumps ship

SHARE SNEED: Rauner tosses more overboard — as navigator jumps ship

Gov. Bruce Rauner talks about the impact of Speaker Mike Madigan’s tax hike with business leaders at Club 81 too, 13157 S Ave. M. Wednesday, July 5, 2017 Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

The bloodbath rages on.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is swinging the ax.

Rauner decapitated his policy department Friday as part of a full-blown regime change that began with firing his chief of staff Monday and continued with the annihilation of his communications department Tuesday.

But by the end of the week, the governor wound up suffering some serious wounds of his own.

Press secretary Eleni Demertzis quit in protest Friday over what has been described as a coup by “an extremist regime.”

And the icing on the cake came when Mike Zolnierowicz, Rauner’s former chief of staff and trusted political adviser, gave a thumbs down to staying on and becoming chief strategist of Rauner’s re-election campaign.


The GOP campaign veteran, known as Mike Z, left public service Friday to join Xpress Professional Services.

“It has now become a full-blown massacre under the direction of John Tillman, CEO of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute,” said a top Sneed source.

The abrupt firings, which included the evisceration of Rauner’s communications department (led by Brad Hahn) and the firing of Rauner’s chief of staff Richard Goldberg, continued Friday with a newly hired policy chief, Michael Lucci, who is also a member of the Illinois Policy Institute.

At last peek, Rauner’s loyal policy chief Mike Mahoney had been shifted into the No. 2 policy position — but his future was unclear.

Sneed is told Lucci also fired Jen Passwater, who had been Rauner’s  public safety adviser, Illinois State Police liaison, and key negotiator on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s gun bill; Jason Heffley, Rauner’s energy and environment adviser who helped negotiate the Exelon deal with Goldberg — and Daniel Seuss, who was described as a “young rock star” serving as a liaison to smaller state agencies, such as the State Fire Marshal and the Abraham Lincoln Museum.

“This is a clear signal John Tillman, the CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, has a firm grip on the new regime in the Rauner administrative,” said a Sneed source.

“We fought for the governor in the budget battle with our very last breath only to find out he was planning to fire us anyway,” said a former Rauner staffer.

“We gave him everything, blood and guts, and this is what we got. A kick out the door.”

Rauner began to shake up his staff in the wake of 11 Republican lawmakers voting to override his veto of the new state budget earlier this month.

Nothing in moderation …

 It’s all over but the shouting.

So let’s put a period at the end of this sentence.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s brutal staff shake-up this week — described by diehard Republicans as a scorched earth campaign inspired by the conservative Illinois Policy Institute — has signaled the death knell of two moderate Republican legacies: former U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and the late, great State Treasurer/Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, whose former aides were either fired, farmed out or furious.

“It’s the worst thing to happen to the Republican Party,” said a top GOP source.

“It’s now the Rauner party!

“The money men are running things: Bruce Rauner, Ken Griffin, Sam Zell, Richard Uihlein. It’s over.”

Ousted chief of staff Richard Goldberg was a top Kirk aide. And fired communications aide Brad Hahn had been a key Topinka staffer. Departing campaign strategist Mike Zolnierowicz and Lance Trover, who voluntarily stepped down as Rauner’s deputy chief of staff for communications, worked for both Kirk and Topinka.

Rahm ’em . . .

As per Sneed’s exclusive tip last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is heading overseas to Milan — but will make his first stop in London this weekend accompanied by his daughter, Ilana. Our proudly Jewish mayor plans to dine with Emanuel’s proudly Muslim sidekick, London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Last September, Emanuel hosted Khan in Chicago, they hit it off, and were very candid while comparing notes on their mutual feelings about President Donald Trump.  

You can take it from there.

Hey! Hey!

Cubs President Theo Epstein and an entourage of 15 Cubbie co-workers were spotted celebrating the crosstown trade of White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana, a left hander, at Paddy O’Fegan’s Irish Pub at 11:30 p.m. Saturday until 1:45 a.m.

“It was smiles and drinks,” chirped an onlooker.

The trade wasn’t announced until Thursday.

Oh, no!

Sneed hears Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville is still smarting over the loss of his assistant/close friend Mike Kitchen, veep of players and personnel — who was fired recently, ostensibly because of complaints by players over his management style.

Puck palaver has it Quenneville was never told the ax was going to fall until it fell, wielded by general manager Stan Bowman.

Ouch and hmmm.

The book beat . . .

The book is out!

Former Chicago columnist/scrivener Marilynn “Penny” Preston’s new book “All is Well”: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well Being,” is drawing praise and a rave review from CBS’ Sunday Morning Jane Pauley, who called it “a savvy, funny and invaluable guide. Original and delightful from beginning to . . . a new beginning.”

But I got a kick out of former Sneed colleague Cheryl Lavin’s comment: “I laughed, I cried, I cleaned out the fridge.”

The Creators Publishing book is based on Preston’s column, which began in Chicago in 1976 during her 18 years at the Tribune.

“Yippee,” said Preston. “Congrats,” says Sneed.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Taylor Kinney, 36; Forest Whitaker, 56; and Lana Parrilla, 40. . . .  Sunday’s birthdays: Will Ferrell, 50; Barry Sanders, 49; and Jimmy Johnson, 74.

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