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How Illinois' Super-Rich Governor and His Cronies Are Changing the State

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. (illinois.gov / Wikimedia Commons)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. (illinois.gov / Wikimedia Commons)

If the recent political trends in Illinois serve as a test case for the rest of the country, we’re in for big trouble.

Sunday’s New York Times took a close and troubling look at the rise of newly installed, super-rich Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, thanks to his even wealthier backer, hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, and several of their flush friends across the country. In the post-Citizens United era, they’re collectively able to pour unprecedented amounts of money into causes and candidates that can best advance their goals. Figuring prominently among those shared aims? Slashing spending and undermining unions.

Here’s more from the Times’ report:

The families remaking Illinois are among a small group around the country who have channeled their extraordinary wealth into political power, taking advantage of regulatory, legal and cultural shifts that have carved new paths for infusing money into campaigns. Economic winners in an age of rising inequality, operating largely out of public view, they are reshaping government with fortunes so large as to defy the ordinary financial scale of politics. In the 2016 presidential race, a New York Times analysis found last month, just 158 families had provided nearly half of the early campaign money.

Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.

Most of them lean Republican; some are Democrats. But to a remarkable degree, their philosophies are becoming part of a widely adopted blueprint for public officials around the country: Critical of the power of unions, many are also determined to reduce spending and taxation, and are skeptical of government-led efforts to mitigate the growing gap between the rich and everyone else.

Powered by players like these, that gap isn’t about to get any smaller anytime soon.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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