When you rank the brazen hypocrisy of Republicans in the age of Governor Rauner and President Trump, you have to put the Ken Dunkin affair near the top of the list.
I realize that’s saying a lot, given that the Republicans are currently attacking Democrats on the issue of sexual harassment even as they worship at the feet of Trump, a self-proclaimed “pussy grabber” who’s been accused of groping and even assaulting women for years.
But Dunkin exposes Republican hypocrisy on two fronts: sexual harassment and patronage. Consider it the Daily Double.
In case you forgot, Dunkin was a long-serving Democratic state rep from Chicago’s Fifth District. He’d probably still be a state rep if in 2015 he hadn’t broken from the Democrats to effectively join forces with Rauner on a couple of issues, like cutting child-care assistance for working-class families.
When Dunkin caught heat from Democrats for betraying the party’s base, he tried to play it off like he was the second coming of Malcolm X breaking free from house speaker Michael Madigan’s plantation.
It didn’t work. In 2016, Juliana Stratton walloped Dunkin in an enormously expensive Democratic primary. Dunkin’s campaign was largely financed by Rauner and his friends.
All in all, Dunkin pretty much gave up his legislative career for Rauner—so you might say the governor owed him a little something.
In fact, the Stratton/Dunkin race wasn’t even over before political junkies were wondering how Rauner would pay back Dunkin.
Well, last month Rauner named Dunkin to fill a $70,000-a-year vacancy at the Water Reclamation District.
Hey, voters—remember this the next time you hear Rauner gassing on and on about Democratic patronage and Chicago machine politics, like he did in a column recently published in the Sun-Times.
By chance, Rauner appointed Dunkin to the water rec commission around the time that Sherri Garrett—a longtime Madigan aide—went public with her allegations of sexual harassment in Springfield.
One of those allegations included a recollection about the time a few years ago when Dunkin allegedly told Garrett and another woman: “I want to take both of you home and see which one will be the naughtiest.”
After Garrett went public with her assertions, Rauner demanded that Dunkin resign. (Dunkin says the allegations are “baseless” and that he won’t resign.)
So, let get this straight—it’s OK for President Trump to be a philanderer who brags about grabbing women by their “pussies.” But damn it, Rauner intends to uphold the highest standards for water rec appointees!
Actually, Rauner didn’t have a much of a choice in regard to Trump or Dunkin. If he criticizes Trump, Republican voters will turn against him. And he needs every Republican vote he can get in November’s race against Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
Meanwhile, he can’t very well slam Madigan while looking the other way at Dunkin’s role in the ongoing harassment scandal.
So Rauner has lately been praising Trump while calling on Dunkin to step down. Once again, Dunkin’s expected to take the hit for Rauner.
If they were honest, Rauner and other Republicans would admit their feigned outrage over sexual harassment is purely tactical—they see it as a weapon to defeat Madigan.
The irony’s painful. If the Republicans successfully exploit the anger voters feel toward Democrats, they might unseat a few Democratic legislators and reelect Rauner.
Then the Republicans could snatch away abortion rights or cut child-care assistance to working parents or do any of a number of diabolical deeds the GOP likes to do to women.
By the way, Rauner appointed Dunkin to a term that expires in December—so, basically, Dunkin gave up his legislative seat for a gig that pays $35,000.
I’d say that Rauner got his loyalty for pretty cheap. You know, sometimes it seems Rauner’s harder on his allies than he is on his foes.