Rauner: Vallas hire by Quinn donor a ‘Blagojevich-style move’

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Paul Vallas, Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate has been hired by DSI Civic Financial Restructuring firm, whose president and CEO, Bill Brandt, donated $100,000 to the Quinn campaign last Dec. 31—a move that was belittled Monday by Quinn’s GOP rival for governor as a “Blagojevich-style move.”

Brandt, who is also chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority, a non-paid position, said Vallas would not be working on any Illinois deals and will be a salaried employee. With Brandt on the IFA, the firm had not been “seeking” or “working on” Illinois business. 

DSI also employs John Filan, the former Chief Operating Officer for the State of Illinois, as a vice president and senior consultant.

Bruce Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign went on the attack over Vallas’ hiring, accusing Quinn, Brandt and Filan of orchestrating a political deal that benefits Vallas.

“Paul Vallas just helped Pat Quinn complete the transformation from self-styled reformer to another back-scratching Illinois politician in record time,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf told Early & Often. “Over the last five years, Pat Quinn has given special deals and appointments to Brandt and Filan. Now, they’re returning the favor in a Blagojevich-style move.”

Quinn, asked to react to the Vallas hiring said, “I think Mr. Brandt and Paul Vallas are both people who made a difference in life and if they want to work together, that’s up to them. I had nothing to do with that. I think they know each other. Paul Vallas has a good reputation.” 

Brandt was tapped for the IFA post by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich–now serving a 14-year sentence in a Colorado federal prison–and was reappointed twice by Quinn.  “I have never spoken to the governor nor any of his government or political staff about Vallas, never,” Brandt said in an interview. After being read the Schrimpf Blagojevich comment, Brandt called the remark “utter B.S. I am trying to put my business into new sectors into business around the country.” As for any payback, “We are paying the man a good salary to help DSI and DSI Civics expand our markets and our networks.

“…I am here to make money for DSI. This is all about making money. Given (Vallas) background and his national networks…we are putting together the premier team…It’s all about making money for this firm,” Brandt said.

The timing of the Vallas hiring is connected to a proposal the Brandt firm is making–due this week–to provide consulting services to the judge handling the Detroit bankruptcy case, Brandt said. While Vallas is often viewed in the context of his work in the education sector–he is a former schools chief in Chicago and other cities–he has a background in government finance at the state and municipal levels. Vallas was at one time the City of Chicago Revenue Director. “The judge in Detroit decided….he needed an expert in municipal finance and government reform and restructuring,” Brandt said. Brandt is a major Democratic donor and fundraiser—for local and national candidates. Last month, however, he crossed the aisle to donate the maximum, $10,600, to Republican Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s political warchest. Brandt said he discussed with Vallas his time committment to the job.  Vallas told  Brandt he does not expect to be “heavily campaigning”  in the immediate future and if he is absent from work, Brandt said  “we will make accommodations.” After Labor Day, when campaigning is most intense, “we will have to sit down and see.”In a release, DSI, based in Chicago with offices in other cities, said Vallas “brings a solid grasp of state and municipal issues that complement the senior management team” of DSI.

DSI said in its release it has built a wall around Vallas to avoid conflicts and his “practice will adhere to the firm’s present policy of only working on out-of-state projects. These protocols preclude DSI Civic from seeking or working on distressed municipal matters, or with troubled governmental units, within the state of Illinois, and have long been in place due to Mr. Brandt’s position as Chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority, as well as John Filan’s former role of COO of the State.” Brandt said he is not reimbursed by the state for expenses related to the IFA position.

Filan was targeted in a 2009 legislative “fumigation” of holdovers from impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration, a move orchestrated by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Madigan’s original legislation sought the removal of 3,000 Blagojevich appointees who worked for Quinn in the early days of his administration. But the speaker pared back that list and specifically removed Filan from it after meeting with Quinn. The governor gave Madigan the assurance Filan would resign several months later as chief of the Illinois Finance Authority, which Filan did.

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