During his successful bid for governor last year, Bruce Rauner campaigned on a theme of shaking up Springfield.

When it comes to putting his imprint on who represents Springfield in the Illinois General Assembly, he's accomplished his goal.

Of three Republican lawmakers who represented the Springfield area when he took office, he's found jobs within his administration for each of them.

Former state Rep. Wayne Rosenthal of Morrisonville is director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Rich Brauer of Petersburg took a job as a top Rauner lieutenant at the Department of Transportation. And, Raymond Poe of Springfield was just named director of the Department of Agriculture.

Its no coincidence that all three were supportive of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which is the state's largest employee union representing thousands of voters in Sangamon County and the surrounding area.

By moving those pro-AFSCME votes out of the Illinois House and into jobs within his administration, the governor was able to replace the trio with appointees who will presumably serve as loyalists when it comes to making Rauner-friendly votes in the General Assembly.

And, when it comes time for those appointed allies to run for a full term in office, Rauner can assure them that he'll help bankroll them with his $19 million campaign war chest.

In installing Poe at Ag, Rauner didn't gain much more leverage for his anti-union agenda in a Legislature dominated by Democrats, but he did eliminate Poe's potential to cross the partisan divide on pro-union legislation. As the old saying goes, it is easier to kill a bill in Springfield than pass one.

Money check

While Rauner continues to press his bid to weaken unions like AFSCME and SEIU, Big Labor continues to shovel big buckets of cash to the governor's Democratic foes.

In November alone, the Countryside-based union representing heavy equipment operators funneled more than $425,000 to campaign accounts controlled by Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan and their allies.

The Democrats are going to need every penny of that when they go up against the seemingly limitless bank account of Rauner, a former businessman who earned about $60 million last year just from his investments.

For the record, the Operating Engineers Local 150 doesn't solely give money to Democrats. They were allied with the late Judy Baar Topinka and hosted a big celebration of her life a year ago this month.

Rauner, who had relied on Topinka for political advice as he made his first bid for office in 2014, was in attendance at the union hall and acknowledged it was an ironic place for him to be after bashing unions during his campaign.

In remarks to the crowd of dignitaries during that event, Rauner offered up an observation about Topinka that he might want to pay special heed to as his budget impasse with Democrats nears the six-month mark.

"Judy was all about working together and solving problems, and I loved her for it," Rauner said.


Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is making a last-ditch attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on his corruption conviction that has him sitting in a federal prison in Colorado.

But its a major long shot. The high court typically only hears 80 of the more than 10,000 appeals it receives.

In the 80-plus page appeal, Blagojevich's attorneys ask that the court weigh in on the legal line between the legal trading of political favors and the illegal corruption for which he was nailed.

New flower

Is the bloom off the violet as Illinois' official state flower?

Republican state Rep. Kate Cloonen, who represents Kankakee County in the Illinois House, has introduced legislation that would replace the violet with a plant known as the Kankakee Mallow.

The wildflower can grow up to six feet tall and has numerous pale flowers. But, it is very rare. In fact, it is native only to an island in the Kankakee River.

Cloonen said she is calling for the change to bring attention to the plight of the plant, which is being crowded out by invasive species like honeysuckle.

"We are trying to save these plants. We want to keep the things that are native to Illinois native to Illinois," Cloonen said.

For good measure, she added, "I don't hate violets."

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


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