So not only does Bruce Rauner try to get the reporter who broke the Christine Kirk news story fired, but then the Sun-Times suddenly starts endorsing candidates and guess who their first pick is? And suddenly that reporter, Dave McKinney, is even scarcer in Springfield than Waldo.
The Sun-Times truly doth suck! Crain’s has the whole sordid story:
Did Rauner camp interfere with this Sun-Times reporter’s job?
A Chicago Sun-Times reporter hired former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate whether the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner tried to interfere with his employment after the newspaper ran a story unfavorable to the politician.
Mr. Collins said in an interview with Crain’s that the Rauner campaign attempted to retaliate against Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney after the paper ran the story about Mr. Rauner allegedly verbally threatening a top executive of a company controlled by Mr. Rauner’s onetime investment firm. Mr. Rauner denied that report through a spokesman.
Mr. Collins, who represented the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of former Republican Gov. George Ryan, declined to comment on exactly what the retaliation against Mr. McKinney may have entailed.
Mr. McKinney declined to comment and the Sun-Times didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Rauner and a spokesman for his campaign didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, either.
The Rauner campaign attempted to have the Sun-Times take action against Mr. McKinney because of what it alleged were conflicts of interest stemming from Mr. McKinney’s marriage to Democratic media consultant Ann Liston, Mr. Collins said.
Mr. McKinney and Ms. Liston were married in April, but Mr. Collins said the couple made arrangements earlier in the year at each of their jobs to create barriers within their work so that their relationship wouldn’t present conflicts of interest for Mr. McKinney, who is the paper’s bureau chief in Springfield.
“Dave McKinney has a body of work as a dogged, but fair and impartial reporter and what happened recently was an attempt to unfairly besmirch Dave’s reputation and he has asked me to evaluate whether there was an improper interference with Dave’s employment relationship with the Sun-Times,” Mr. Collins said in an interview.
Mr. Collins, who is an attorney in Chicago at the law firm of Perkins Coie, declined to comment on any “legal strategy” for his client.
Mr. McKinney’s Oct. 6 story, which he co-wrote with Sun-Times and NBC5 News reporter Carol Marin and Sun-Times reporter Don Moseley, said Mr. Rauner threatened Christine Kirk, who served as CEO of a Tempe, Arizona-based business-outsourcing company called LeapSource that was owned by Mr. Rauner’s former firm, GTCR LLC. The threat was disclosed as part of litigation in which Ms. Kirk sued Mr. Rauner and GTCR, but agreed to a settlement in 2008. The ‘R’ in GTCR stands for Rauner and Mr. Rauner led that firm until 2012.
The Quinn campaign has been using the story in its advertising.
Just hours before the Sun-Times story went to press, the Rauner campaign attempted to quash the piece by bringing up Ms. Liston’s political work with Sun-Times management even though Mr. McKinney has been covering the campaign for months, according to Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins didn’t have details on who in the Rauner campaign contacted the Sun-Times and who at the newspaper was contacted.
Mr. McKinney has also written stories that were critical of incumbent Democratic candidate Gov. Pat Quinn, specifically his involvement with the troubled state-funded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
In recent days, Mr. McKinney was inexplicably absent from his statehouse beat for five days despite one of the hottest gubernatorial races in recent memory.
When asked last week whether the newspaper company had taken action against Mr. McKinney, Chicago Sun-Times Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk said it had not, and he reiterated that response yesterday.
“In no way has Dave been disciplined,” Mr. Kirk said in his initial Oct. 10 statement. “Any implication is absolutely false and irresponsible. Dave is an exceptional reporter who continues to do great work for the Sun-Times,” he said. Mr. Kirk, a former editor at Crain’s Chicago Business, didn’t respond to requests for comment on Mr. McKinney’s hiring of Mr. Collins.
Mr. Rauner previously owned a 10-percent ownership stake in Chicago Sun-Times parent Wrapports LLC, which is led by Chairman Michael Ferro. Mr. Rauner sold that stake to Mr. Ferro last year for $5 million before he decided to run for governor.
The Sun-Times today announced that it would once again begin making political endorsements, reversing a decision it made nearly three years ago after Mr. Ferro, Mr. Rauner and other wealthy Chicagoans purchased the newspaper company in 2011.