The danger in trying to gain partisan advantage from Springfield’s sexual harassment scandal has been evident from the start: At some point, it would become bipartisan. And now it has.
After months of mostly Democrats taking their lumps for the alleged abuses of male officeholders and operatives, it was the Republicans who found themselves Wednesday in the middle of a creepy sex scandal.
First-term state Rep. Nick Sauer, 35, of Lake Barrington, resigned his seat under pressure Wednesday after a former girlfriend reportedly complained to authorities that he shared nude photos of her online without her consent — a potentially criminal act.
As far as is known, Sauer’s alleged conduct had no connection to his official duties, or to his involvement in the Republican Party.
But it was still a good reminder that sexual harassment is not a problem limited to members of one political party, nor even to people in politics, although politicians DO seem to have a particular propensity to engage in it.
Unfortunately, this fresh evidence of the bipartisan nature of men behaving badly around women did not deter Gov. Bruce Rauner from continuing to try to seek political advantage Wednesday, suggesting the greater blame belongs to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan for creating a “culture of abuse.”
“He’s created a culture of harassment and of hiding the harassment, and that culture has to be brought out and exposed and those responsible should be removed from office,” Rauner said.
Reporters pointed out to Rauner that he had appointed Sauer as a director of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority in 2015, an obvious piece of resume-building in advance of launching his campaign for the Legislature.
A political campaign consultant might also want to remind voters that it was Rauner who appointed another former Republican state representative, John Anthony, to a top post in the state Corrections Department — and then had to fire him for inappropriately touching female employees.
And it was Rauner who recently appointed former state Rep. Ken Dunkin to a commissioner seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, then tried to take it back when a state employee accused Dunkin of previously having made inappropriate sexual comments to her. Dunkin is a Democrat but a Rauner political ally.
Is this evidence of some pattern involving Rauner?
Not really. Only to the extent that sexual harassment doesn’t discriminate between Democrats and Republicans and that people making decisions on the basis of politics make poor choices.
Is the Madigan situation different, as Rauner suggested?
I’ve tried to keep an open mind from the start about the allegations involving Madigan’s political operation and others close to him.
The initial disclosures of Madigan’s office mishandling the sexual harassment complaint of campaign worker Alaina Hampton against Kevin Quinn, brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) were particularly compelling.
Subsequent disclosures involving others in Madigan’s orbit have not proved the case but proven the need for further investigation.
Although I would never suspect Madigan personally of harassing women, I can see how the general bullying nature of his political leadership style could have resulted in that becoming part of the office culture.
What you’ll never be able to convince me: that Democrats sexually harass women any more than Republicans.