Illinois governor's race attack ads: Separating truth from greatly stretched truth

Sep 25, 2014

As we enter the home stretch to the Nov. 4 election, the attack ads are flying fast and furious in the Illinois gubernatorial race.

On this week’s “Only in Illinois,” we try to separate the facts from the hype in two, 30-second attack ads from Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn.

Yes, Quinn had a controversial early prison release program that in 2009 mistakenly allowed some violent criminals to be discharged. It nearly cost him the election in 2010. But were murderers released, as Rauner’s ad states?

And yes, a company owned by Rauner’s private equity firm in 2011 paid a $13 million fine after a federal investigation for Medicaid services it never delivered. But was Rauner the FBI’s target, as Quinn’s ad strongly implies?

As with most attack ads, there’s truth in both of these. And plenty of stretching too. We try to separate the two on this week’s “Only in Illinois.”


rauner clip

A bankruptcy trial in Florida involving a nursing home company once owned by Bruce Rauner’s former firm quickly is becoming a major issue in the Illinois governor’s race.

Rauner says the whole discussion is a distraction tactic by Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the company Rauner retired from in 2012, GTCR, is a defendent in a case claiming “GTCR participated in a fraudulent scheme to avoid liability for a string of deaths at nursing homes run by Trans Healthcare,” though Rauner himself is not a defendant. The plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that GTCR sold Trans Healthcare to Barry Saacks and created a “shell” company to protect itself from $1 billion in liabilities.

From the Tribune:

The plaintiff attorneys contend most of the valuable assets of Trans Healthcare were shifted to a separate holding company while the liabilities were shifted to yet another firm that Saacks came to own.  

In recorded interviews, Saacks, who the Tribune says may be facing health problems, claims he does not remember buying the company. Plaintiffs say he was used as a “pawn” in the scheme to protect GTCR from liabilities related to the wrongful death suits.

According to the Tribune, Rauner has said since February that he served on Trans Healthcare’s board for a year in 1998, but didn’t have much to do with the company afterward. But according to the Tribune, he may have been involved for longer.

From the Tribune:

However, the Tribune reported in Monday that a court document in the bankruptcy case indicates Rauner still served on the Trans Healthcare board four years after the inception of the chain. What’s more, plaintiff’s attorneys allege that other documents filed under seal in the case demonstrate that the nursing home company was run right up until the transaction with Saacks by an investment committee of GTCR partners that included Rauner.

According to the Tribune, the trial began in Florida Monday and is expected to last two weeks.

Rauner said he and his company had no involvement in any wrong-doing.

From the Tribune:

“I hope and believe that there was no wrongdoing, no bad behavior,” he said. “The courts will sort out all the facts. I’m confident that no one at GTCR engaged in any inappropriate behavior.”

And from the Sun-Times:

“This is primarily a distraction,” Rauner said. “Pat Quinn is fundamentally failing and trying to create a distractionthese are a distraction. That is what I believe will be found.”

According to the Tribune, Rauner reminded voters that Quinn’s office is also under federal investigation in regards to whether or not Quinn’s 2010 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which was meant to prevent violence in Chicago, was really a political slush fund and an effort to garner votes before the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Rauner also criticized a prison early-release program formed under Quinn. According to the Tribune, Rauner said the program led to the shooting death of a 9-year-old Chicago boy in August.

From the Tribune:

“We have rampant crime in our neighborhoods, violent crime that is putting families in Illinois, families in Chicago at fundamental risk. And Pat Quinn has failed on violent crime. He’s created an environment where it can thrive,” Rauner said.

“He ran a secret program releasing violent criminals early and just today it was discussed further in the media (that) a violent criminal was let out early under Pat Quinn (and) murdered a 9-year-old boy. We cannot allow this to continue to occur,” Rauner said.

From the Tribune:

But Illinois Department of Corrections officials said the accused gunman, 19-year-old Derrick Allmon, had been released from prison in accordance with state law after serving 21 months of a 42-month gun-related sentence, not due to any early release program.

Both candidates are fighting for the political lives as the election looms ever closer. According to the Associated Press, Illinois politicians’ campaign spending is the fourth-highest in the country this year for TV ad time. The spending is 30 percent higher than the election cycle four years ago, even as campaign spending has decreased by 45 percent in the country overall.

From the AP:

The review found candidates for Illinois offices spent more than $26.4 million to air an estimated 34,589 ads between Jan. 1, 2013 and Sept. 8 of this year. That’s up from about $20.5 million for an estimated 26,554 ads during roughly the same time period in 2010.


NEXT ARTICLE: Six weeks to the Illinois elections and we want to help you decide 


  1. Neighborhood recovery initiative grants guided by politics, emails show
  2. Cartoon: Neighborhood Recovery Initiative can’t stop this violence 
  3. Rauner is criticized on education but picks up support from African-American ministers
  4. National group puts Illiana Expressway tollway project on “highway boondoggle” list
  5. Want to tell your elected officials what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool. 
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