WASHINGTON — Gov. Bruce Rauner, making his first official visit here since taking office — and faced with a primary challenge from the right — headed to the Trump White House Sunday and Monday on to the Supreme Court to hear arguments in the anti-union Janus v AFSCME, a case launched by Rauner.
Here’s an overview of Rauner’s official visit to the city that he has gone to lengths to avoid since being sworn in as governor in January 2015.
• Rauner has been doing everything possible to put distance between himself and President Donald Trump. He even skipped the 2016 GOP convention. Yet on Sunday night, Rauner and his wife, Diana, were going to the White House for the annual National Governors Association Governors’ Ball.
Rauner, according to his spokesman, Patty Schuh, was aiming to go to the White House on Monday morning for a working meeting Trump will have with Democratic and Republican governors here for the NGA 2018 Winter Meeting.
However, the timing may not work for Rauner to do both. He will have a seat in the Supreme Court for the Janus v AFSCME oral arguments, to start 9 a.m. Chicago time.
These NGA events are attended by Democratic and Republican governors — and held every year at the White House no matter who is the president.
My point: Rauner did not go to NGA meetings in previous years. Part of the reason may have been he didn’t want to be out-of-town for all those years the state went without a budget.
Not on Rauner’s Sunday schedule: Rauner actually attended an NGA session at the J.W. Marriott after he arrived in D.C. in the afternoon.
On Saturday, first lady Diana Rauner was on a panel titled “Adverse Childhood Experiences and Lifelong Health and Well-being: A Case for Trauma-Informed Communities.”
The Trump White House visits come as Rauner, heading into the March primary, is facing a challenge from the right from state Sen. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton.
• The Ives campaign is getting help from some of the same folks — former Rauner supporters — who have helped bankroll the Janus case. The plaintiff, Mark Janus is a state of Illinois employee from Springfield.
That includes the Liberty Justice Center, associated with the Illinois Policy Institute whose donors include the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, controlled by GOP mega donor Richard Uihlein, the Lake Forest business executive who is Ives main financial patron.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, is a defendant in the case, weighing in on the side of AFSCME.
• Rauner did visit the Capitol and the Obama White House after he was elected governor in November 2014 — but not yet sworn in.
He has been to Washington for two, possibly three meetings of the Republican Governors Association taking place on the sidelines of the NGA. Since the RGA is a political organization dedicated to helping elect GOP governors, those visits are political, not official.
• Why come now? From Schuh, “The governor is hear to participate in National Governors Association events and engage in a discussion in Washington with other governors and be present for the oral arguments in the Janus v AFSCME case that he initiated in 2015.”
• Depending on the ruling, the case, Janus v AFSCME Council 31 could make it much more difficult for public sector unions to organize. A key issue: The ability of a union to collect “fair share” dues from workers who do not want to join the union. Since contracts are negotiated for everyone — these fees cover union bargaining and related costs.
• Rauner intends to meet the press after the oral arguments on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
• From Democratic hopeful J.B. Pritzker’s camp: “Donald Trump has attacked our state’s children, immigrant communities, and working families, but our failed governor has done nothing to stop him and even refused to say his name,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. “While other Republican leaders speak out against Trump, Bruce Rauner is breaking bread at the White House and failing to protect Illinois families.”
Rauner was aiming to go to the White House on Monday morning for a working meeting Trump will have with Democratic and Republican governors.