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Kadner: You spent $50 million on what?

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner dropped $50 million into his campaign fund shortly before Christmas. | Seth Perlman/AP

When I dream about winning $50 million in the lottery, the one thing that never crosses my mind is spending my fortune on a campaign for political office.

I mention this because just before Christmas it was widely reported that Gov. Bruce Rauner deposited $50 million of his own money into Citizens for Rauner, Inc., apparently in preparation for a 2018 run for re-election.


The stories about that generous contribution frequently mentioned that Rauner had previously spent an estimated $30 million of his personal fortune running for governor in 2014.

I really can’t comprehend what those figures mean. But no matter what your political beliefs, you have to admit it’s kind of impressive that a man can fritter away that kind of dough on politics.

After all, I’ve heard wealthy Republicans complain for decades about the income tax system in this country and how it limits their earning capacity.

On his 2015 income tax returns, Rauner reported $176 million in taxable income, on which he paid an impressive $50 million in taxes. Who knows how much of that was later wasted by government bureaucrats on programs for the poor and the shiftless. I’m talking about unimaginative people who can’t comprehend why someone would spend that sort of cash on a political campaign. And it’s that sort of thinking that may have inspired Rauner to change things.

I realize there are some liberals who would suggest that $50 million is more than the entire annual budget of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. That organization distributes food to homeless shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Cook County, feeding children, senior citizens and veterans.

It distributes about 70 million pounds of food each year to 700 programs throughout the county, feeding 812,000 people at a cost of $42 million a year

So some kill joy is likely going to say that instead of investing $50 million in a campaign for public office, that money would be put to better use feeding 812,000 hungry people.

It should be noted that in addition to spending millions on his personal political campaigns, Rauner contributes millions to charitable causes and has his own charitable foundation that has $43 million in it. It’s not like the guy spends all of his money on wine clubs and ranches.

As a venture capitalist and private equity manager, Rauner was smart enough to have earned so much money that in addition to having sufficient funds for personal extravagance and public charity, he still had $70 million to spend on politics over a couple of years, despite our socialistic tax system.

It ought to be noted that the $50 million he just donated to Citizens for Rauner was referred to as an initial installment on his 2018 campaign, indicating there is likely more to come. I would also suggest that since many wealthy Democrats are considering a run for governor, the investment might be interpreted as preemptive strike to discourage such efforts by people with names such as Kennedy and Pritzker.

But why would anyone want to spend that kind of money to become governor of Illinois?

That’s the question people have been asking since Rauner first announced his candidacy and no one has really been able to figure it out.

When I’ve raised the issue in previous columns, readers have replied, “Because he wants to make Illinois a better place to live for all of us.”

I have to admit that such expressions of idealism from Illinois residents who have witnessed  all manner of skullduggery, thievery and chicanery from their elected officials is an affirmation of faith in humanity that is almost biblical.

For those who persist in believing that a $50 million investment in an effort to retain the office of governor is somehow indicative of depravity and moral decay, I would point that not long ago people believed that the governor of this state and all of its legislators could be bought for a lot less.

Either it isn’t as easy to buy politicians in Illinois as most of us think, or Rauner isn’t as smart at investing his money as he would have us all believe.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com