By Monique Garcia
Two former campaign aides to Gov. Bruce Rauner have formed a new political fund to help the governor push his agenda at the Capitol, the latest effort to give the Republican leverage as his plans face resistance from the Democrat-controlled legislature.
Called "Turnaround Illinois," the fund will be able to raise an unlimited amount of money as a super political action committee. The group's goal is to "support state legislative candidates who support Gov. Rauner's bold and needed reforms, and to oppose those who stand in the way," according to paperwork filed with the State Board of Elections.
Documents show the group's chairman is listed as Lesley Sweeney, who was chief financial officer for the governor's campaign committee. Named as treasurer is Michael G. Adams, who was general counsel for the Rauner campaign.
While no contributions have been reported yet, big money is expected to flow in shortly. The new fund is on top of a $20 million pot of money Rauner established in his own campaign fund shortly before taking office to promote his agenda.
Rauner, who made his wealth as a private equity investor, put in $10 million of his own money, while Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of the Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel, provided $8 million, and Richard Uihlein, CEO of Uline Corp., added $2 million.
The new super PAC comes as Rauner has been touring the state promoting what he's billed as the Illinois Turnaround, a package of proposals ranging from limits on employee unions to business-friendly changes to workers compensation insurance and regulations to prevent venue-shopping for civil lawsuits.
The governor also is pushing changes to the state employee pension system that would shift all workers into a less generous benefit plan as well as huge cuts to the state budget that are fiercely opposed by Democrats who favor tax increases to offset the need for deep spending reductions.
The state faces an estimated $6 billion shortfall in the budget year that begins July 1, and Rauner has made no secret of his desire to use the massive budget hole to his advantage as he seeks changes. That sets the stage for Rauner to potentially cut a deal on higher taxes in exchange for lawmakers going along with some of his other plans.
"The opportunity to bring big structural change is right now, as part of the 2016 budget," Rauner said last week while addressing a group of school superintendents in Springfield. "Because once the 2016 budget happens, nobody is going to want to listen to any structural reform.
They're going to move on to the next issue, now is the opportunity to drive change along with the budget. Because crisis creates opportunity for change."
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