Bruce Rauner is a great businessman—right?
  • Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media
  • Bruce Rauner is a great businessman—right?

The race for governor took an interesting turn yesterday. Mark Brown of the Sun-Times published the most cogent and urgent argument I’ve seen yet for not voting for Bruce Rauner. And the Tribune published the name of a third candidate, welcome news to voters who can’t bring themselves to vote for Pat Quinn either.

This candidate is Libertarian Chad Grimm and I’ll say no more about him.

Brown doesn’t like Rauner because he’s trying to buy the job he’s running for. “If it weren’t for Rauner’s money, he would never have been in the discussion for governor,” Brown writes. “Beyond being just a campaign weapon, his wealth is the one shining proof of his ‘success’ as a businessman, his lone claim to credibility. His wealth is his primary qualification for the job. Look at me, he says, I’m prosperous, and I know what it takes to make Illinois prosper again.”

This observation made me go back and reread the Rauner endorsements published in the Tribune and Sun-Times. Does the Tribune hail his success as a businessman? No. It salutes his “outsider moxie” and refers to the governorship as a “job he doesn’t need.” But it simply identifies him as a “businessman” who sees the “urgent need to shatter the self-serving political power structure in state government” and as governor would strive to “make Illinois competitive again.”

Illinois is full of people who see the need and would so strive. The Tribune could be describing a manager of a 7-Eleven or True Value franchise. What makes Rauner different is his hundreds of millions of dollars, which matter for reasons the Tribune doesn’t say but Brown put his finger on.

The Sun-Times, however, calls Rauner “an extraordinarily capable businessman.” It offers no evidence of this, the proof it doesn’t bother to mention presumably being that he’s rich. And so Brown strikes the note of the lad in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who notices the emperor isn’t wearing any. “Rauner never gives any specifics about what his companies do, what they make or how they treat their workers,” Brown observes, “because that’s a very messy subject—as media reports and opposition researchers have shown.”

Michael Bloomberg—to whom Rauner was compared by the Sun-Times—created Bloomberg L.P., a global financial data and media company (and in the process became many, many, many times richer than Rauner is). Rauner is that 21st century phenomenon, the “successful businessman” whom no one identifies with any successful business.

After reading Brown, I thought it was time for a wide-angle look at how Rauner is faring in the pages of the Sun-Times (whose owners also own the Reader).

For Rauner (formerly one of those owners) . . .

One head-over-heels endorsement.

While on the other hand . . .

Publisher and editor in chief Jim Kirk calls the Rauner campaign’s breach of ethics accusations against political reporter David McKinney (who later quit over the publication’s handling of the incident) “inaccurate and defamatory.”

Sun-Times columnist and NBC5 political editor Carol Marin writes: “the Rauner team went over our heads to our bosses at NBC5 and the Sun-Times and, in a last-ditch effort to kill the story, claimed that Dave’s wife, Democratic political strategist Ann Liston, was actively engaged in anti-Rauner efforts. It wasn’t true. Sun-Times management knew it.”

Columnist Neil Steinberg writes: “I assume you either are already a supporter—and I’ll try to be impartial here—of good old Gov. Pat Quinn, the homespun Democrat whom everybody knows and loves, working like a plough horse trying to correct the problems left behind by the jail-bound Rod Blagojevich, and, before him, the jail-bound George Ryan. Or you back Bruce Rauner, the Republican multimillionaire who popped steaming from the C. Montgomery Burns mold, bursting onto the scene like a party guest flinging his cape at a cringing footman, demanding the governorship be given him right now, as his birthright, a kind of droit de seigneur. Darn, I’ve blown this whole balance bit, haven’t I?”

Columnist Laura Washington writes: “The black vote has been front and center in this long, grueling campaign. Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was aimed at that vote. Now it is under investigation. Its execution was sloppy. It was also a badly needed response to the pernicious violence plaguing our communities. That’s what we know about Quinn. From Rauner, there have been too many evasions, too much shucking and jiving, too few answers.”

And now Brown writes: “I don’t like people buying their way into political office at the highest levels. Never have. . . . I particularly don’t like a new breed of uber-wealthy bullies who are intent on reshaping Illinois government more to their liking under the guise of reforming it for our benefit.”

Against all that, I’m not sure the Sun-Times endorsement holds its own.