Follow the Money: Bruce Rauner’s 2 Million to Tea Party Groups Undermines his Moderate Pose

CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)–August 7, 2014. 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 … 401(k) plans,” and received $150,000 from Rauner’s foundation. AFP also supported Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that “would essentially end Medicare” (The Wall Street Journal) “by capping spending and offering vouchers to buy private insurance” (Bloomberg).

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.”

4. Coddling Big Oil and Gas Companies. In addition to Rauner’s repeated calls for Illinois to allow fracking to extract natural gas, his giving has supported groups that call for oil drilling in the Great Lakes and urge lower taxes for big oil and gas companies. “[I]t makes perfect sense to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Gulf of Mexico and, yes, the Great Lakes too,” the Rauner-funded Heartland Institute wrote in the Chicago Tribune. “[E]nergy exploration in the Great Lakes truly is a great idea to be considered.” Americans for Prosperity lobbies for “tax breaks and credits for oil and gas producers,” Reuters says.

5. Denying Freedom to Marry and Equal Rights for All Families. It’s well known that Rauner pledged to veto the marriage equality billthat Governor Quinn signed granting gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry. Lesser known are Rauner’s $400,000 gifts to the Family Taxpayers Foundation under Jack Roeser, who was “viscerally disdainful of gay rights,” the Tribune wrote. “Of those who have a gay lifestyle, Roeser said, ‘We all know that’s kind of a death sentence’.”

6. Opposing Children’s Health Insurance and the Affordable Care Act. Americans for Prosperity applauded President Bush’s veto of a bill allowing states to provide health insurance to more children, calling the health program an example of “expanding government dependence”. In addition, in 2012, Rauner’s foundation gave $25,000 to FreedomWorks, a Tea Party lobbying group that had “urged people to oppose health care reform at town hall meetings” and poured half a million dollars into an anti-health care march on Washington fronted by Glenn Beck of Fox News.

7. Organizing the Tea Party. With a $25,000 foundation gift to FreedomWorks, Rauner rewarded a “Washington advocacy group that has done more than any other organization to build the Tea Party movement,” according to the New York Times. “The group played a crucial role in ushering a wave of tea party candidates into office in recent years, staging rallies, hawking books and videos, and organizing media appearances with conservative personalities such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh,” the Washington Post reported.

8. Attacking President Obama. Rauner’s foundation gave $25,000 to FreedomWorks, which helped “lead the tea party movement against Obama’s agenda” and funded rallies of angry Tea Partiers waving signs that showed the president with a Hitler mustache. From 2010 to 2012, Rauner’s foundation also gave $400,000 to the Family Taxpayers Foundation, whose late chairman Jack Roeser “long has lambasted Obama as a socialist,” the Chicago Tribune reported in 2010.

9. Funding “The Dark Money ATM of the Right.” The Rauner Family Foundation gave Donors Trust $500,000 in 2011 and $200,000 in 2012. Described as “the dark money ATM of the right” (Mother Jones) and “middlemen between conservative donors with a desire for secrecy and groups in need of operating revenue” (Business Insider), Donors Trust and its sister organization have “funneled hundreds of millions of dollars of anonymous cash” to right-wing interest groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA’s Freedom Action Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. “Donors Trust allows wealthy contributors who want to donate millions to the most important causes on the right to do so anonymously, essentially scrubbing the identity of those underwriting conservative and libertarian organizations. Wisconsin’s 2011 assault on collective bargaining rights? Donors Trust helped fund that. ALEC, the conservative bill mill? Donors Trust supports it. The climate deniers at the Heartland Institute? They get Donors Trust money, too.”

10. Working Hand-In-Glove with the Koch Brothers. Through his foundation, Rauner has given to numerous organizations founded by or closely tied to the Koch Brothers, including $150,000 to Americans for Prosperity (David Koch chairs its foundation), $10,000 to the Cato Institute (co-founded by Charles Koch), and $25,000 to FreedomWorks (originally financed by the Koch Foundation). The Kochs’ support has come back to Rauner in recent months, in the form of TV ads attacking Governor Quinn.