Lawsuit ups ante on Rutherford; adds Romney camp as defendant

SHARE Lawsuit ups ante on Rutherford; adds Romney camp as defendant

Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign has been drawn into the federal lawsuit that crippled Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s bid for governor this year.

Former state worker Ed Michalowski named Romney for President Inc. as a defendant Thursday when he broadened the sexual and political harassment complaint he brought against the treasurer in February.

It now accuses Rutherford and Romney’s campaign of racketeering. Michalowski’s attorney, Dana Kurtz, said Rutherford acted “essentially as a mob boss” while using his state office to further his political ambitions.

Kurtz also said Rutherford, a Republican, participated in what amounted to “organized crime” while serving as state chair of Romney’s 2012 campaign for the White House. But she said she doesn’t know of anyone in the Romney camp — beyond Rutherford himself — who knew about it.

“Rutherford, for the state of Illinois, was in charge of Mitt Romney’s campaign and forced employees, including Michalowski, to do not only work for Rutherford’s campaign, but also for Mitt Romney’s campaign,” Kurtz said.

Rutherford spokeswoman Mary Frances Bragiel declined to comment about Michalowski’s amended complaint. The Romney campaign offered no comment.

Michalowski first filed in February his federal lawsuit leveling explosive charges that Rutherford made sexual advances, including in April 2011, and charging that Rutherford grabbed the employee’s genitals.

Rutherford said at the time Michalowski’s timeline didn’t match up to his own accounting for the day in travel receipts. His attorney also suggested there were political overtones to the timing of the sexual harassment allegations, as they came within five weeks of the Republican primary.

Rutherford ultimately placed last in the Republican gubernatorial primary vote won by Bruce Rauner.

The new complaint also names Rutherford chief of staff Kyle Ham and deputy chief of staff Curt Conrad as defendants.

“Racketeering is based upon what we all know in Chicago and the state of Illinois as mobster activity,” Kurtz said. “Forcing employees to contribute their time and money and state resources for political gain.”

It contends Rutherford kept a clout list of potential interns noting their political connections to the Rutherford campaign. It also alleges that, during a meeting with state employees shortly after taking office, Rutherford said it was important for individuals connected with his political allies and potential donors to have paid government internships in the treasurer’s office.

When Michalowski objected, he said his job was threatened if he didn’t keep his opinions to himself.

He claimed he was forced to donate money to functions that would benefit the Rutherford and Romney campaigns, and to organize nominating petition drives for the Romney campaign.

Finally, Michalowski’s new complaint alleges Rutherford and Ham kept a “hit list” of state employees who would be fired for their lack of political support for the Rutherford and Romney campaigns.

Michalowski said his name was on that list.

Lawsuit against Dan Rutherford

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