Gov’s code of silence on ‘Godfather’ gift: Was it personal or strictly business?

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Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) talking to reporters in 2015. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Still photo of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” (right). Photo by Snap/Rex Features.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has never struck those around him as a particularly big fan of “The Godfather,” certainly not one of those guys who goes around gratuitously quoting lines from the movie.

Yet it was just revealed the governor was the anonymous bidder who paid $625,000 at auction in February 2016 for the personal papers of Godfather author Mario Puzo.

ANALYSIS

Rauner and his wife Diana donated the materials last summer to the Rauner Special Collections Library at the governor’s alma mater, Dartmouth College, which is putting select items on display beginning Thursday.

“It was, ahem, an offer they couldn’t refuse,” stated a March 28 news release from the university’s public relations office announcing the donation. “They” in this instance refers to officials at the New Hampshire university.

Naturally, they accepted the gift, because as Hyman Roth memorably observed in Godfather II: “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

There’s plenty of wannabe wiseguys who would have happily donated their left pinkie finger for such a prize, but how Puzo’s papers attracted the attention of the then-sitting Illinois governor is — like so much of Rauner’s private life — a mystery.

The governor’s press office could shed no light on the matter, which was first reported Wednesday on the Capitol Fax political blog. And Dartmouth wasn’t much help in that regard either.

Dawn Dumpert, the Dartmouth librarian who is serving as curator of the Puzo exhibit, said she does not know why the Rauners came to own The Godfather files.

“That’s something I’ve wanted to speak to the Rauners about,” she said.

Bonasera, portrayed by Frank Puglia, asks Don Vito Corleone, portrayed by Marlon Brando, right, for a favor in a scene from the 1972 movie “The Godfather”. (AP Photo/ Paramount Pictures )

Bonasera, portrayed by Frank Puglia, asks Don Vito Corleone, portrayed by Marlon Brando, right, for a favor in a scene from the 1972 movie “The Godfather”. (AP Photo/ Paramount Pictures )

All she knows is that the 48-box collection, which features the original Godfather trilogy manuscripts, arrived on campus last August after being held by the Rauners “in storage somewhere in the Chicago area.”

This brings to mind the possibility the collection was taking up space in one of the Rauners’ homes before the governor’s wife put her foot down, as wives are known to do when their husbands bring home stuff they think is really cool, but we may never know.

Best-selling author Mario Puzo is shown in this July 25, 1996, file photo. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

Best-selling author Mario Puzo is shown in this July 25, 1996, file photo. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

In his statement carried in the university’s announcement, the governor just said: “We love the fact that Puzo’s papers document the creation of Dartmouth’s most famous fictional alumnus, Michael Corleone, and that they will live for centuries to come with the papers of so many prominent, and real, alumni!”

At the time of the 2016 auction in Boston, Rauner was just coming off a year where he reported an adjusted gross income of $188 million, so he could definitely afford it.

Puzo, who did not attend Dartmouth, died in 1999, which happens to be the same year the Rauners made an earlier donation that got the Special Collections Library named after them.

A scene from “The Godfather” in a completely restored 2008 DVD release. Starring Marlon Brando, Talia Shire, James Caan. File Photo.

A scene from “The Godfather” in a completely restored 2008 DVD release. Starring Marlon Brando, Talia Shire, James Caan. File Photo.

Dumpert said one of the highlights of the Puzo collection is a 1965 Underwood typewriter on which Puzo is believed to have written “The Godfather” book.

But I think she is more partial to handwritten notes suggesting Puzo’s frustration with being thwarted in his efforts to get one of his favorite lines from his book into the movie scripts, that being:

“A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”

That sounds like it could be Rauner’s favorite Godfather quotation, too.

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