Governor Bruce Rauner devised a new way to reward his friends and punish his enemies on April 16 when he created a campaign committee called Illinois Turnaround.
Illinois Turnaround is an independent-expenditure committee, meaning contributions to it and by it are not capped by law. The committee's officially stated purpose is to "support state legislative candidates who support Governor Rauner's bold and needed reforms, and to oppose those who stand in the way."
According to Rauner insiders, the new committee will be given $4 million to $5 million within days of its founding. That's in addition to the $20 million the governor has in his own personal campaign account, which won't be touched for this particular effort.
Spending on advertising is expected to begin soon after the money comes in.
The governor's campaign also released a polling memo that purports to show that the public backs his agenda. While his job-approval rating is just 38 percent, his disapproval rating is five points below that (33 percent). The percentage of respondents who view him favorably was 42 percent compared to 34 percent who viewed him unfavorably.
By contrast, the General Assembly's job-approval rating is a mere 20 percent, with 57 percent disapproving. House Speaker Michael Madigan's favorables are just 24 percent, with 51 percent viewing him unfavorably.
The poll also found that 57 percent agree with the statement "Bruce Rauner is trying to shake things up in Springfield, but the career politicians are standing in his way," and 56 percent agree that the governor is "working to find bipartisan solutions that will help fix Illinois' budget mess and improve the struggling state economy."
"Every time they attack us," a Rauner insider said about the Democrats, "they are reinforcing that they are insiders and the governor is the outsider - he's the one trying to change things."
The issue questions are interesting because they provide a roadmap of how the independent-expenditure money will be spent and what the governor intends to do at the Statehouse in the coming weeks.
For instance: "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a state representative who voted to raise the Illinois income tax rate without any property-tax freeze and without any significant economic or budget reforms to help our economy grow?" Fifty-six percent said they'd be "less likely" to vote for that legislator, while just 15 percent said "more likely."
Another question asked whether voters supported higher taxes, without which "major budget cuts ... will hurt education, health care, and other state services," or if they backed lower spending, "even if that means major spending cuts will be required."
Fifty-three percent said they wanted lower spending, while 39 percent said they backed higher taxes. The Rauner folks have extrapolated from this question that voters back the governor's spending cuts. We'll see.
And they claim that the state Senate hearings around the state focusing on the governor's recent and proposed cuts are doing the Democrats no good. "The bottom line is if the legislature chooses to ignore his reforms and we are forced to go the austere budget, politically the governor will be fine and the legislature will be in even worse shape," a Rauner insider e-mailed me.
The "austere budget" is being talked up by Rauner insiders as a way of forcing Democrats to cave on things such as local "right to work" zones. They firmly believe that if they refuse to back any additional revenues for next fiscal year, Democrats will eventually have to recognize reality and give the governor what he wants.
The issue questions are clearly loaded. For instance, check out part of the "right to work" question: "Under current Illinois law, workers are often required to join a labor union and pay union dues as a condition of their employment. In other words, the worker cannot take a job unless he or she joins the union."
Not mentioned is that Rauner wants to allow employees who receive all the benefits of union membership to not have to pay for those valuable union services.
But when you essentially have unlimited resources and the other side doesn't, as is the case with Rauner versus the Democrats, you can frame an advocacy campaign pretty much any way you want.
We've entered an entirely new world, campers.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax (a daily political newsletter) and CapitolFax.com.