Rauner inauguration contributors reveal old, new friends
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- As Bruce Rauner prepares to take the oath Monday as the 42nd Illinois governor, donors to the celebratory day include established supporters - and some that might want to become new friends.
Among the 162 individuals and groups that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican's transition and inaugural are 58 that previously gave $1.74 million to Rauner's campaign, according to an analysis of state records by The Associated Press.
Donations to support the transition and swearing-in celebration aren't required to be reported. The Rauner transition team did so voluntarily. But money talks regardless of the purpose for which it's given, said Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
"It's a way of getting attention," Redfield said Sunday. "This isn't about the election because the election's over, but a lot of campaign contributions have nothing to do with elections. They're about building relations, making friends, getting on the radar screen."
Rauner did not release an itemized list, only names of donors under categories indicating the benefactor gave up to $100,000, down to contributions of $1,000 to $5,000. Without elaborating, Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said the transition and inauguration cost less than $3 million.
"The inauguration is a new beginning for the state, for all the people of Illinois," Rauner said Sunday during a stop at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which the inaugural committee paid to have open free Sunday. "... It's a privilege to be in Springfield, the state capital ... and it's been wonderful to have the support for the inauguration festivities from people from all around Illinois."
Repeat givers are scattered among the list, but the top category includes suburban Chicago business executive and inaugural honorary co-chairman David MacNeil, who gave Rauner $218,750 during the campaign and the Illinois Manufacturers Association, which ponied up $360,000 to elect Rauner.
It also includes newcomers to the Rauner camp, including the Illinois Hospital Association, which gave the GOP nominee nothing but contributed $177,600 to his vanquished opponent, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
Association spokesman Danny Chun said the group is "pleased to support the incoming governor's transition," adding that hospitals play a vital role in job creation and the state's economy.
One donor, Doug Knierim, had never given to a political candidate before chipping in $2,000 to Rauner's effort. Then, the oil-drilling business owner from Casey, about 140 miles northeast of St. Louis, made the donor's list by purchasing a $1,000 ticket to Sunday night's inaugural dinner.
"He (Rauner) took the time to come to Casey on more than one occasion to meet with the local folks and some neighboring towns," Knierim said. "It's just reciprocal respect. He took time to come down and listen to our concerns; we'll support him in his victory."
Knierim said he "thought it was time to do something" because he witnessed businesses leaving the state and found it increasingly difficult to conduct commerce in downstate Illinois.
As for what kind of return he wants for his investment in the new governor, Knierim was succinct.
"I expect nothing," he said, "except his best effort at turning us around, making this a better state."
Illinois Inauguration 2015: http://illinoisinauguration.com/
Contact John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .