COLUMN: Rauner, a different guy behind closed doors?

Republicans like to portray House Speaker Michael Madigan as the puppet master for legislative Democrats.

And the GOP has a lot of evidence to make its case.

Even in La Salle County, it’s obvious the Chicago power broker guides Democrats. Rep. Frank Mautino, who represented La Salle County for nearly 25 years, was one of Madigan’s top lieutenants and became the state’s auditor general, thanks to Madigan. And Mautino’s replacement, Rep. Andy Skoog, was vetted by the Madigan-led state Democratic Party before he got the nod to replace Mautino.

Skoog’s opponent, Jerry Long, attacked Skoog for his alliance with the unpopular but powerful Madigan. And Long beat Skoog, who always dodged questions about whether he would vote for Madigan as speaker.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, meanwhile, likes to paint himself as the folksy guy in the flannel shirt.

But that’s not the Rauner portrayed in a recent column by Rich Miller, which appeared in The Times.

Citing “multiple credible sources,” Miller said Rauner told senators at a closed meeting in a restaurant in 2015 that he had $20 million in his campaign account. He promised to support those who backed him.

Rauner, Miller wrote, informed the senators he would need their support on 10 issues and that he absolutely needed all of their votes on all of the issues. And if anyone in the room did not, then they would have an “(expletive) problem” with him, Miller reported.

As it happens, Miller said, the governor also said the senators would have an “(expletive) problem” with him if they leaked anything about the meeting to Miller.

If the governor made that last threat, Miller’s column is proof it didn’t work.

I asked two of our area Republican senators — Sue Rezin and Jason Barickman — whether Miller’s account was correct.

Both said they did not remember the meeting as Miller reported, but neither offered to dispute the columnist’s account.

“I’ve never felt threatened by the governor or any of his surrogates,” Barickman, of Bloomington, said. “The governor certainly wants to use his role as head of the executive branch to drive public policy. He needs allies in the Republican Party and beyond. The governor and I have disagreed, but I have found him to respect my opinions.”

Rezin, of Morris, said she didn’t recall Rauner making the statements that Miller reported. She advised I call the governor’s office.

I did just that, but got no return call.

If the public suspects Madigan is taking charge of local Democrats, we should try to get that story to readers. The same goes for Rauner and his fellow Republicans.

The reason Madigan and Rauner have such power over their fellow party members is they have the access to cash to help with election campaigns. And that’s a powerful tool in Springfield.

David Giuliani is a reporter for The Times. His weekly column “As It Is” expands upon regular news coverage by adding his insight and ideas. He can be reached at 815-431-4041 or Follow him on Twitter at @tt_dgiuliani.

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