Rauner: Ex-Quinn aides should testify at NRI hearing next week

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SPRINGFIELD-A lineup of former aides to Gov. Pat Quinn should appear before a legislative panel next week to answer questions about his mismanaged $54.5 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative despite a push by the Justice Department to delay the testimony, Republican Bruce Rauner said Friday.

Citing concerns over possibly interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation, the Justice Department this week asked for a 90-day stop on testimony from any of the seven subpoenaed witnesses now scheduled to appear at a Wednesday hearing of the Legislative Audit Commission.

“I believe the legislative commission has been mandated to do an investigation to protect the taxpayers and look at the audit,” Rauner told reporters, referring to a February audit of the program by Auditor General William Holland that is being dissected by the 12-member panel.

“I believe their investigation can be done in parallel with the federal investigation,” Rauner continued. “They can respect each other and not interfere with each other. I believe the commission will make the right decision on how to handle that.”

While Quinn has acknowledged the widespread problems with the program and has touted the steps his administration took to shut it down once the problems were known, Rauner said the governor owes more of an explanation about why the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was so mismanaged.

“The real answer to deal with this is for Gov. Quinn to come forward, come clean, talk in detail about what happened, what he knows, when things occurred and release all emails and documents. That’s the real answer here. He’s obfuscating and hiding, and he’s trying to create diversions to get away from the real issue,” Rauner said. “He should come forward.”

A Quinn administration spokesman said Friday that the “governor fully supports any inquiries, and anyone who is asked to participate should do so.”

Rauner’s comments came the same day his campaign launched a new television attack ad on the governor, hitting Quinn on “broken promises” on job creation, school funding and the state income-tax increase.

The ad launch triggered a quick comeback from Quinn’s campaign.

“Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner just launched his first attack ad of the campaign, and you can bet this is just the beginning. He has no shortage of money to fund this trash. Only a few weeks ago, the richest man in Illinois gave Rauner an eye-popping $2.5 million – and now we see how he’s going to spend it,” Quinn campaign manager Lou Bertuca said, referring to hedge fund investor Kenneth Griffin, in an email fundraising pitch to supporters.

During Rauner’s exchange with reporters in Springfield Friday, he also responded to a question about Quinn’s criticism of him not paying Medicare or Social Security taxes in 2011 and 2012 despite his immense wealth, which in 2012 resulted in net earnings of $53 million.

“We follow the tax code. We pay all the taxes that are owed. My tax rate is the same as Gov. Quinn’s, and we also have given tens of millions of dollars to philanthropy and charity and reforms. And we’ve paid full taxes as appropriate as we should.

“Here’s the issue: This is a political stunt by Gov. Quinn to divert attention from the investigations going on in his administration and his failure to comply with a request for information. That’s what’s going on,” Rauner said.

The GOP gubernatorial hopeful ended his briefing when asked about a report Friday by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed that he had paid $100,000 for a downtown parking space and storage space, where he owns a $4 million penthouse and $1.2 million condo.

Rauner merely smiled and walked away as reporters asked him to verify he had made the expenditure.

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