Just over two years ago Stuart Levine went to federal prison to serve a significantly reduced 51/2-year prison sentence after he turned state’s evidence against many powerful Illinois politicians and businessmen. As an effective government witness, he meticulously explained to juries how pay-to-play worked in Illinois. The Pat Quinn for Governor campaign debuted a new tv ad featuring Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner’s direct ties to Levine, reports the Chicago Sun Times. The 30-second spot, which went up yesterday and explains how Rauner used pay-to-play to profit from taxpayer dollars with the help of one of Illinois’ most notorious, adept and sneaky swindlers. Levine reported to prison Sept. 27, 2012.
Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, has repeatedly denied knowing Stuart Levine. However, the facts belie his repeated denials. It all started in 2003 when Rauner’s firm was awarded a deal worth $50 million from the Illinois Teachers Retirement System (TRS). Later it was revealed that a company owned by Rauner’s firm was secretly paying $25,000 a month to Levine, a TRS Board Member, who helped Rauner get the $50 million deal. And Rauner never disclosed that egregious conflict of interest to the board, a violation of his fiduciary duty.
Levine left the company only after being indicted on federal corruption charges and later was sent to prison.
According to Levine’s testimony during the trial of Tony Rezko, his job was to get work for CompBenefits Corp., owned in part by GTCRauner, through “whatever means were needed, including payoffs.”
Rauner struggled during the Republican primary, a campaign he was to have breezed to an easy victory against three opponents: State Senator Kirk Dillard, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Senator Bill Brady. Dillard emerged from the three and nearly defeated Rauner attacking him over and over on many issues, and often on the issue of his seedy relationship with Stuart Levine.
Bruce Rauner has one unanswered question as the campaign goes into the home stretch:
What was your relationship with Stuart Levine?
Who is Stuart Levine anyway and what was Bruce Rauner’s relationship with him?
Levine has been involved with some of the most corrupt politicians in the state of Illinois, most of them having served time in prison for their acts of corruption.
Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business uncovered this relationship earlier this year and is still looking for an answer. That was ten months ago and it is likely not going away.
The question Hinz poses is this: “How can Mr. Rauner be trusted to clean up corrupt Springfield when he won’t fully explain how and why Mr. Levine made $25,000 a month trying to get government business for a company owned in part by Mr. Rauner?”
Levine was the ultimate Springfield insider and political fixer who is now a federal felon. He is the corrupt Springfield insider who testified against Springfield power broker William Cellini and Antonin “Tony” Rezko. Levine also wore a wire against former Chicago alderman and ultimate political insider “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak. It was Levine’s undercover work in the case that resulted in Vrdolyak’s guilty plea that sent this elusive target to jail.
Natasha Korecki of the Chicago Sun Times reported last year in a piece about Levine said, “Testimony at trial showed Levine routinely schemed for kickbacks while serving on state boards, including the Teachers’ Retirement System.” Korecki points out that Levine left the board in 2004.
There’s the rub and the relationship between Levine and Rauner. The truth about this relationship is the “smoking gun” for Rauner’s candidacy.
What was his relationship with this notorious “con man” that help put away so many prominent Illinois politicians.
Was the $25,000 a month “consulting” contract Levine received from CompBenefits Corp, just a sophisticated “bribe” from Rauner and GTCR to “secure” GTCR’s contract to run the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System? This fact came out during the 2008 trial of Rezko.
Four private-equity firms, including GTCR LLC, which Rauner was a founder, owned CompBenefits. The “R” in the GTCR stands for Rauner.
Crain’s Chicago Business political editor Greg Hinz reported that in 2003, Stuart Levine was on the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement Board first table then approved a “$50 million investment from the giant pension fund” for GTCR.
The bid stalled at the board’s Feb. 2003 meeting after Levine objected but then was zipped through in May of that year, Rauner attended a board meeting and Rauner received approval. Doug Ibendahl of the RepublicanWatch.com website and an expert on Rauner’s seedy activities, wrote last January, “At a minimum we know that Levine was present as a TRS board member when Rauner made a presentation to that board in May of 2003. That is a fact, and it is undisputed.”
Little is known about the flip, but given Levine’s history and Rauner’s aggressiveness, questions and eyebrows are being raised.
Hinz closed his piece saying that he was “Not accusing him of wrongdoing. But if he wants to be governor, I suspect he’s going to have to say a lot more about how he and his firm did business in the state of Stu Levine, Tony Rezko and Rod Blagojevich.”
State Senator Bill Brady, during the Republican primary, pushed Rauner on his ties to Stuart Levine and accused Rauner of not coming clean on the $25,000-a-month contract with Levine.
“You can’t avoid it. You can’t advertise your way out of it, Bruce,” Brady said.
Rauner emphatically said he didn’t know Levine and didn’t have any dealings with him. Rauner also denied that the money paid to Levine was a bribe.
“Oh my goodness it’s pure baloney,” Rauner said in reaction to Brady. “We’ve worked for the teachers retirement system for 30 years in Illinois. We got the business because we produced results, simple, end of story.”
But this is a political campaign and there is no end of story. At least not until Election Day.