Illinois Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has given more than $2 million to extreme right-wing causes and groups associated with the Tea Party and the billionaire Koch Brothers, new research shows.
Personally and through his foundation, Rauner has contributed to groups that want to lower the minimum wage, privatize Social Security and end Medicare as we know it, ban abortion, defeat marriage equality legislation, deny climate science and oppose environmental protections.
Rauner has also given heavily to “the dark-money ATM of the right,” Donors Trust, essentially a pass-through often used by major givers to conceal their direct ties to far-right causes and organizations.
The revelations undercut Rauner’s campaign-trail claims to be a moderate. They also call into question his attempts to deflect criticism of his tax avoidance strategies. While his campaign has claimed Rauner has reduced his tax bill in part by write-offs because “the candidate and his wife have given back to the community through charitable donations,” Tea Party lobbying groups aren’t likely what Illinois voters consider to be community-based charities. What’s more, because he has failed to file 2013 income tax returns both personally and for his foundation, Rauner may be keeping voters in the dark about even more recent gifts to right-wing causes.
Based on his donations, here are 10 ways Bruce Rauner is funding extreme right-wing causes and groups that are far out of the mainstream:
1. Privatizing Social Security and Ending Medicare. Privatizing Social Security by replacing its stable annual benefit with risky Wall Street accounts is unpopular with the American public, but the scheme has often been proposed by Republican politicians, infamously including President George W. Bush. Among the right-wing groups cheerleading for the scheme is Americans for Prosperity, which pushed to replace Social Security with what it called “personal accounts … similar to … 401k plans,” and received $150,000 from Rauner’s foundation. AFP also supported Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that “would essentially end Medicare by capping spending and offering vouchers to buy private insurance”.
Similarly, the Cato Institute urged “allowing younger workers to privately invest their Social Security taxes through individual accounts,” receiving $10,000 from Rauner’s foundation. And the Club for Growth, recipient of $200,000 from Rauner’s own checkbook, “publicly argued for privatizing Social Security,” according to Talking Points Memo. “It was actually more blatant than that. The organization titled their pitch: ‘Privatize Social Security? Hell Yeah!’”
2. Lowering the Minimum Wage. In addition to his own statement that he “adamantly, adamantly” opposed raising the minimum wage, Bruce Rauner has given large sums of money to organizations that want to abolish wage standards altogether, push to lower the minimum wage or oppose raising it: The Rauner Family Foundation gave $525,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute as of 2012. Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the “right-wing advocacy group”, has written on its website that “The federal government and Illinois should abolish the minimum wage.” In 2012, the Rauner Family Foundation gave $150,000 to Americans for Prosperity. In response to US Senator Tom Harkin’s Fair Minimum Wage Act that would gradually raise the federal wage to $10.10, AFP wrote, “Americans for Prosperity strongly opposes your legislation and similar efforts to raise the minimum wage.” The same year, the Rauner Family Foundation gave $10,000 to the Cato Institute. Cato opposes raising the minimum wage, claiming that it “would do little to reduce poverty or inequality. On the other hand it would almost certainly reduce employment opportunities”. Rauner personally donated $200,000 to the Club for Growth in 2004. Responding to Mitt Romney’s campaign proposal to ensure the federal minimum wage keeps pace with inflation, Club for Growth president Chris Chocola said, “Indexing the minimum wage would be an absolute job killer. Mitt Romney’s proposal is anti-growth and would harm our economy.”
3. Denying Climate Science. Rauner gave $50,000 through his foundation to the Heartland Institute in 2012. Heartland infamously funded billboards in the Chicago area comparing people who believe in climate change to the Unabomber, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. The same year as Rauner’s gift, internal Heartland documents revealed the group’s “strategy to promote climate-change skepticism to schoolchildren,” according to the Washington Post, and holds conferences “to dispute the claim that global warming is a crisis.” The Rauner-funded Cato Institute has similarly claimed that “the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated.” More…