Will Rauner compromise or compete with Madigan?

Last December, Bruce Rauner appeared on a WLS Radio talk show program and revealed that he planned to form a new campaign committee to counter the power of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“We’re gonna raise a PAC, we’re gonna raise a fund dedicated to the state Legislature, members of both parties who take the tough votes,” Rauner said. “We’ve gotta protect the members who take tough votes.”

“Right now,” Rauner continued, “Madigan controls the Legislature from his little pot of cash. It isn’t that much money. And he runs the whole state government out of that pot. We need a pro-business, pro-growth, pro-limited government, pro-tax reduction PAC down there in Springfield working with the Legislature for those who take tough votes.”

Word is that Rauner’s new legislative PAC will be launched relatively soon – perhaps after the governor-elect’s transition committee has finished its job.

Rod Blagojevich tried the same thing with his Move Illinois Forward PAC several years ago. As I pointed out on my blog when Rauner revealed his plans, Blagojevich’s PAC didn’t work out all that well, partly because Blagojevich was relying on a Democratic donor base which didn’t want to step too hard on Madigan’s toes.

Rauner, of course, won’t have that problem. And he also has plenty of his own cash.

But how “little” is Madigan’s “pot of cash”? Well, the House Republicans believe that when it’s all said and done, Madigan and his candidates will have spent $10 million.

An election day tally showed that Madigan had raised $5.7 million during the cycle, but add in the money raised by his targeted candidates and the total rises to $10.6 million, plus another $290,000 in reported independent expenditures. The tally was conducted by Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, a longtime reformer and a pal.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s committees raised $4 million, but add a million dollars in independent expenditures and the money raised by Durkin’s candidates (much of it from contributions by the state Republican Party – via Rauner) and Durkin’s number rises to almost $7.9 million.

What Rauner is attempting to do here is strengthen his own hand as governor and maybe try to entice some of Speaker Madigan’s members into breaking party ranks on occasion.

But Madigan controls just about every aspect of a House Democrat’s existence. Everything from office and staff assignments, to committee assignments, to bills getting called, to patronage and perks like his numerous season tickets at Chicago sports stadiums, you gotta go through him. And if you try the nectar of a competing sugar daddy, things can get ugly.

But, hey, more competition is probably good for the system, so long as it doesn’t escalate into Blagojevichian levels of utter insanity.

But the governor-elect might want to also take a few minutes and read a Chicago Sun-Times story from 2012 in which Speaker Madigan explained what he most respected about the seven governors he had served with.

Actually, he didn’t say anything nice about the imprisoned Blagojevich, and didn’t have too many kind words for our outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn, but he did heap praise on two Republicans, Jim Thompson and George Ryan.

Of Thompson, who was governor for a record 14 years, Madigan said, “a very intelligent person, a quick learner, very flexible. He understood ... that you need to fashion compromise if you need to move forward.”

On Ryan, who like Madigan was once the Illinois House Speaker, “George would say, ‘We’ve got problems – what do we have to do to solve these problems?’ … “A [legislative] leader might want to evade the question, he might have a strategic plan they’re working and don’t want to answer today. And George would just pursue, persist, ‘I want an answer!’”

Former Gov. Jim Edgar accompanied Rauner on his final campaign swing. Madigan was less effusive in his praise, “a little more strident than Gov. Thompson ... more willing to engage in protracted negotiations in order to get what he wanted, especially out of the budget.”  

Even so, Madigan and Edgar did get plenty of things done.

Rauner will obviously have his own style, and he’ll have his own battles that will have to be fought with Madigan. But there’s no getting around the man. If the governor-elect meant it when he said on election night that he wants to find bipartisan solutions to the state’s many problems, he’ll notice how Madigan admires governors who forcefully attempt to overcome problems and move the state forward. He can be worked with.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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