Rauner camp brings a gun to a petition fight

By DOUG IBENDAHL •  August 24, 2014

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Friday, August 22 was a very bad day for Bruce Rauner. He lost on two fronts. First, in a two-paragraph order the Supreme Court of Illinois summarily denied his petition for appeal of the Appellate Court’s ruling which upheld the Circuit Court’s finding that Rauner’s proposed term limit amendment is unconstitutional.

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Rauner’s campaign immediately cried about it in an e-blast blaring “Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan and the Springfield crowd don’t care what you think.”

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Republicans on the Supreme Court such as Rita Garman, Robert Thomas and Lloyd Karmeier must be quite sad today after learning they are mere flunkies for the Quinn/Madigan machine according to Rauner.

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But as we’ve come to learn, nothing is ever Bruce Rauner’s fault. Whether it’s the elderly or developmentally disabled suffering in facilities his firm controlled, or executives being indicted at companies his firm created, Rauner was busy buying another mansion or something and obviously had nothing to do with any problems. He was after all only the chairman of a firm with a handful of equity partners.

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Similarly, it’s someone else’s fault that Rauner and his lawyers apparently didn’t study the court rulings which struck down the Quinn-led term limit attempt in 1994. The judicial guidance for proper drafting was out there, but Rauner seems to have ignored it. It’s further evidence Rauner never really cared about term limits in the first place. For him this has always been a political gimmick, a way to pander to the hayseeds – and the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

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Meanwhile, as Rauner shed crocodile tears over the denial of ballot access, the State Board of Elections on Friday pulled the plug on Rauner’s scheme to deny ballot access to the Libertarian Party’s slate of statewide candidates.

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In a 5 to 2 ruling (with one abstention), the State Board of Elections voted to uphold the recommendation of the Hearing Officer and the Libertarian candidates were certified for the November ballot.

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This was a major blow to Rauner’s campaign which was behind the petition challenge from day one, along with the latest addition to Rauner’s portfolio, the Illinois Republican Party.

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Rauner pulled out all the stops to keep competition off the ballot. One Libertarian Party petition circulator targeted by Rauner’s shills was an African American woman named Sarah Dart. She testified at hearing that during the course of her petition work she was approached three times by Carlos Rodriquez, a private investigator employed by Morrison Security, a company owned by Sean Morrison.

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Morrison is not only the elected Palos Township Republican Committeeman, he is also one of only 18 members of the Illinois Republican Party’s State Central Committee. Morrison is the party representative for the 3rd Congressional District and was a Rauner backer during the Primary.

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According to Dart, Rodriquez made up a phony story to secure a meeting. Dart says Rodriquez claimed she might have information that would help him find a missing girl. The ruse worked and Dart agreed to meet with Rodriquez, but when she did there was no mention of any missing girl. Rodriquez instead pulls out a stack of petitions and pressures Dart to admit they were fraudulently obtained.

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Rodriquez displayed a holstered gun during this meeting and Dart testified that she was frightened by Rodriquez. Nevertheless, Dart refused to fold to the pressure and wouldn’t sign anything the armed investigator put in front of her.

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When Rodriquez’s initial attempt failed, he allegedly crept around and followed Dart, staked out a residence, performed a skip trace on her, and engaged in other conduct intended to discredit Dart and her petition gathering. Somehow a personal letter was apparently even obtained, purportedly sent by Dart to a neighbor, presumably for the purpose of arguing Dart lived at another address.

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The Rauner campaign and the Illinois Republican Party also deployed their minions to the homes of persons who had signed a Libertarian Party petition. An affidavit would be presented asking the signer to recant his or her original signature on the Libertarian petition. Typically a photo of the circulator would be shown with it suggested that maybe such person was not the same person who was present when the petition was signed. A driver’s license photo of Sarah Dart was allegedly used in this way.

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It has already been reported that at least one armed investigator was employed in trying to gather these affidavits for the objectors. We also know from briefs filed during the objection hearing process that at least one Rauner campaign paid staffer was actively employed with seeking affidavits. That was Morgan Kreitner.

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But none of it worked. The Hearing Officer found Dart a credible witness and the full Board of Elections concurred that Dart gathered her signatures legally and appropriately.

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Rauner’s team definitely didn’t make it easy. Even at the final hearing on Friday before the full Board of Elections, the objectors’ attorney spent part of his oral argument rehashing questions about whether Sarah Dart wore a wig or had her hair styled in an “afro” while gathering petitions. This matter had already been litigated in previous hearings and the Hearing Officer found it credible that a petition signer might not recognize a photo of circulator who wore her hair in a different style from the photo – especially after months had lapsed since the original petition circulation.

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So this is what Rauner’s riches are buying. An armed “investigator” who creeps around and lies to an African American woman, and then uses intimidation tactics to try and force her to sign away all of her hard work. And when that fails, grill her about her “afro.”

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Rauner’s tactics are beyond sickening. Why anyone would ever circulate petitions in Illinois knowing that he/she is opening themselves up for this kind of disrespectful treatment is a question I can’t answer.

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Rauner has only made it more difficult for a serious group to get a term limit amendment on the ballot in the future.

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The Illinois GOP’s standard bearer is a guy apparently comfortable with skullduggery that would make the Chicago Democratic Machine blush.

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But beyond that, it’s incomprehensible why Rauner would be okay with his people employing at least one armed investigator to intimidate good folks who were simply working in furtherance of our system of democracy. With so much gun violence in Chicago especially, it’s impossible to think of a more offensive message to send.

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Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.

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