Bruce Rauner isn’t just running for governor in 2014. The uber-wealthy hedge fund manager also is trying to get a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would limit the terms of state officials.
Under his plan, members of the House and Senate would be limited to eight years in office in what he calls an attempt to oust so-called “career politicians.”
Rauner, a newcomer to state politics who has voted and contributed to politicians on both sides of the partisan aisle, has formed a political action committee for his pet project that has quickly received more than $200,000 in contributions.
Most of the money, however, is coming from just two sources. Former Chicago Tribune owner Sam Zell contributed $100,000 to the cause. Howie Rich, a wealthy Philadelphia businessman and conservative activist also plunked down $100,000.
Rich has been beating the drum for term limits since the early 1990s. And, it turns out, he sort of pays attention to Illinois politics.
In 2008, he wrote a blog post focusing on the Rod Blagojevich scandal, calling on readers to demand more open government from their leaders.
When it comes to term limits, however, experts say it may not be workable in a large and diverse state like Illinois.
Political scientist Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, said the ultimate effect of having a so-called “citizen legislature” is that it gives a lot more power to the executive branch.
“If you want to have a citizen legislature, live in New Hampshire. Live in Arkansas. Live in West Virginia. Those are states whose legislatures meet just a couple of months out of the year. These states don’t need to have people year-round; there are just not as many complicated problems there,” he said in a recent interview.
“Illinois is a big state. It’s as big as some significant countries. And even though we don’t have foreign policy to deal with, we do have a wide variety of public problems,” Mooney continued.
He said Texas is the lone example of a comparable state has a citizen legislature.
“The legislature in Texas meets every other year, so the executive branch ends up dominating the state. That’s what would happen if we had a citizen legislature in Illinois; the governor would be a lot stronger,” Mooney said.
After George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, that’s definitely something to think about.
Race for treasurer
Republican Tom Cross of Oswego formally announced last week his plans to run for state treasurer.
As it stands now, the former House minority leader will face off against DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan in the GOP primary next March. The winner likely will face state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign.
“I want to move Illinois in a new direction by serving as a good steward of the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars and ensuring they are invested carefully and judiciously,” Cross said in a fundraising plea to supporters.
The mitten connection
State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, unveiled Maria Rodriguez as his running mate last week in the race to become Illinois’ next governor.
Not only has Rodriguez served as mayor of Long Grove, located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, but she and her husband own an alpaca farm.
She’s not the only one running for statewide office who has experience with animals used to make sweaters.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who also is running for governor, once kept a herd of sheep on his property in Livingston County.
Drop out Daley
First, Attorney General Lisa Madigan decided not to run for governor against Pat Quinn.
Then, last week, former White House chief of staff Bill Daley scuttled his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, leaving Quinn a clear path to win his party’s nomination in March. The governor may be considered by some a weak candidate, but he’s also supremely lucky.
Controlling the message
A social media organization has launched a new online tool designed to make it easier for Illinoisans to get the organization’s message to local lawmakers.
Reboot Illinois’ new “Sound Off” tool allows users to identify their state lawmaker and asks whether they want to send a pre-written letter to the politician on subjects ranging from cutting pension benefits to increasing the minimum wage.
The tool is available at www.RebootIllinois.com.
Kurt Erickson can be reached at kurt.erickson@ lee.net.