McKinney, Clout & The Freedom Of The Press: Where Would Illinois Be Headed Under Rauner’s Reign? > Progress Illinois

27 Oct

Former Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney’s resignation from the paper is fueling players in both the political and media worlds to speculate about not only the future of the Windy City’s oldest news publication, but also what it means for journalism in the state in a greater sense — and what a Rauner-ruled Illinois could look like.

After 19 years at the newspaper, McKinney issued his immediate resignation Wednesday, stating in an open letter that, essentially, he had no choice but to make the “difficult decision due to the disturbing developments I’ve experienced in the last two weeks that cannot be reconciled with this newspaper’s storied commitment to journalism.”

The “disturbing developments” stem from the newspaper’s response to the “multiple tactics” GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s campaign deployed in an attempt to stop the publication of a story co-written by McKinney, Carol Marin and Don Moseley. The article detailed allegations that Rauner threatened a former employee, ex-LeapSource CEO Christine Kirk, as well as her family when it became clear that she planned to sue Rauner and his then-investment firm GTCR. Despite threats from the Republican’s campaign stating they would “go over” the heads of those working on the story, according to McKinney, the piece ran.

And that’s when the Rauner camp reportedly pounced even more viciously, penning an “opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about” McKinney’s wife Ann Liston, a Democratic consultant. Although Sun-Times Publisher and Editor Jim Kirk responded to the Rauner camp’s allegations of a conflict of interest, saying the “‘assault’ on my integrity ‘border[ed] on defamation’ and represented ‘a low point in the campaign,'” according to the political reporter, actions were allegedly taken days later to silence and demote him.

Enter Sun-Times Chairman Michael Ferro.

Ferro and Rauner have a long-standing relationship, having worked on a number of deals together, including purchasing the parent company of Sun-Times Media, Wrapports LLC. Prior to running for governor, Rauner sold his share of the company to Ferro for $5 million. But what many do not know is that Rauner also invested millions into Merge Healthcare, for which Ferro’s company, Merrick Ventures, paid $20 million for a controlling stake in 2008. More…

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