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Gov. Rauner Moves Further Right With Latest Staff Shakeup

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 12, 2017 5:42PM

In the wake of losing his two-year battle to push his austerity “pro business” agenda through the state budget impasse, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has been shakin’ up his office.

The staff changes began with Rauner hiring the conservative Illinois Policy Institute’s Kristina Rasmussen to replace Richard Goldberg as his chief of staff. In a statement given to NBC5’s Ward Room, Rauner said that Goldberg was “transitioning back to foreign policy, national security and consulting.”

“Rich is one of the most talented policy, political and communications advisors I’ve ever met and I will forever be indebted to his faithful public service for the last three and a half years,” said Rauner.

Since replacing Goldberg with Rasmussen, Rauner’s office has seen several more exits and firings. Brad Hahn, Rauner’s communications director was fired and Catherine Kelly, a spokesperson, was given the option to resign, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kelly was expected to resign in about a month. Also exiting is Lance Trover, Rauner’s deputy chief of staff, who told Capitol Fax he gave notice “weeks ago,” but stayed on through the special legislative assembly.

In addition to Rasmussen, two more employees of the Illinois Policy Institute - Jean Hutton and Michael Lucci - are coming on board Rauner’s staff, along with Laurel Patrick, a former spokesperson for Wisconsin Governor and Rauner’s self professed “mentor” Scott Walker.

The shakeup and subsequent hiring of several Institute employees signals a shift further rightward from the already Republican governor. The Institute has long advocated far right fiscal policies, and has generally blamed all of Illinois’ woes on a combination of House Speaker Michael Madigan and other legislative Democrats.

Several Rauner’s critics and opponents seized the opportunity presented by the shake ups to highlight the governor and the agenda of the new employees he hired.

“Gov. Bruce Rauner is clearly losing his grip on the system he has propped up to benefit the billionaire class and corporate special interests after he lost the Illinois budget battle last week,” Chicago Alderman and Democratic Primary candidate Ameya Pawar said. “Now, he’s trying to compensate for that loss by replacing his staff with even more conservative political ideologues who only seek to destroy our public institutions and preserve the system that only benefits the wealthy...Gov. Rauner clearly has no interest in governing. Instead he is doubling down on a failed agenda and waging war against working families, collective bargaining, livable wages and social services in Illinois.”

The Pritzker campaign said Rauner booted loyal top advisors in favor of “fresh faces with radical conservative views.”

"Bruce Rauner is cleaning house and welcoming a who's who of radical right-wing extremists into the governor's office,” Pritzker campaign spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement emailed to Chicagoist. "This is the Donald Trump playbook of playing to the worst extremes of your base when you have nothing left to lose. It will have deep and damaging repercussions for the people of this state."

The Democratic Governors Association said that Rauner’s operation was in “chaos.”

“Fresh off a stunning bipartisan rebuke of his uncompromising policies, Rauner has turned inward, firing seemingly everyone to be replaced by right-wing ideological staffers, said the DGA's Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “These moves should be concerning for Illinois families. Rauner has surrounded himself with the same uncompromising group of people who would rather see the state fall off a fiscal cliff than pass a bipartisan budget. Two and a half years in and Rauner has doubled-down on the same failed leadership style that earned him the nicknames ‘Governor Junk’ and ‘Most Vulnerable Incumbent.’”