If you want to see how Governor Bruce Rauner's mind works, you should skim through the vast trove of e-mails from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's private account that a Better Government Association lawsuit finally forced into public view last week.
For instance, in September 2011 Rauner was the chair of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau. Legendary Springfield insider Jim Reilly was the bureau’s CEO at the time.
A state law designed to weaken labor unions at the massive convention center had been tossed out by a federal judge, and Rauner was apparently arguing for "really kicking ass" with a "full-court press" to ram new anti-union legislation through the General Assembly during the upcoming fall veto session. Reilly, however, was trying to negotiate an agreement with the unions. Changes were first implemented when major convention-center customers threatened to abandon Chicago over high costs.
Rauner told Reilly on September 30, 2011, that calls from hotels and restaurants had "accelerated." The future governor explained that the entities were worried that a "negotiated partial restoration" of the stricken legislation wouldn't be enough. And, Rauner claimed, "they believe decisive, unilateral action that demonstrates unions don’t have their old clout is the only way."
Reilly did his very best to charm Rauner into submission. He started out by bluntly informing Rauner that there was "no support in key quarters" for a legislative solution. Reilly and the mayor weren't passing up an opportunity, he explained, because "there is no opportunity to pass up. It is an illusion! ...
"I know that you can say that maybe if we make a full-court press we could force the issue," the experienced Springfield hand explained to Rauner, "but that is sort of like me saying that if we put enough money in some venture-capital opportunity that looks good to me but you know just won't work, we might make a fortune."
Reilly also defended his and Mayor Emanuel's preference for talks. "We are not negotiating because it is easier or because the mayor or me or anyone else involved lacks guts or doesn't understand what is at stake," he wrote. "We are negotiating because it is the best, perhaps the only, way to save the trade-show industry in Chicago, which, in my judgment, will come as close to collapsing or closer than it was in the spring of 2010 if we get through veto session with no resolution and have to wait until the appeal plays itself out sometime late this year or, more likely, sometime next spring."
Reilly then gave the compromise-averse Rauner a status update on the union talks. "In our negotiations, we are already home on the ability of exhibitors to do their own work in a booth of any size, ... which will be forever enshrined in state law free from legal challenge. No compromise here. This is huge!"
He also warned against another Rauner legislative idea, which he said couldn't be passed, and -- even if it did -- the law "would almost certainly be challenged, setting off another year or so of uncertainty, which the negotiations route seeks to avoid."
Reilly assured Rauner that if the negotiations succeeded, he had no doubts that the convention center would be back to where it was before that federal judge tossed all those reforms out the window.
"You talk of 'really kicking ass,' but Bruce, we were really kicking ass back then, and we can be doing [so] again soon, but I sincerely believe that negotiation is our only possible route," Reilly explained.
"I don’t blame you for wanting a perfect world for the Chicago trade-show industry. I would like that, too, but absolute perfection doesn't happen very often," Reilly wrote. "If it did, the world wouldn’t need people like you and me to drag it along."
To summarize, Rauner had a hard-line stance against negotiating with unions, a rigid demand for a "full-court press" to pass a politically impossible and likely unconstitutional legislative action that "really kicks ass," and a refusal to accept any compromise solution short of what he believed was "absolute perfection."
Less than a month later, Reilly wrapped up his union negotiations. Crain's Chicago Business reported that the agreements "largely preserve work-rule changes enacted at the convention center last summer."
So perhaps we could get out of this two-year impasse nightmare if the governor would just put Reilly on contract?
It'll never happen. The governor no longer has to listen to graybeards who could talk some sense into him.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and CapitolFax.com.