The Chicago Tribune today reports that Ed Rendell put in a good word for a private equity firm trying to win Pennsylvania’s pension business after that firm’s owner donated to his then-nascent gubernatorial campaign back in 2001.
The firm’s owner: Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for Illinois governor. Rauner, the Tribune says, “has repeatedly accused Illinois politicians of creating a culture where campaign cash buys influence and skews policy.”
Rendell was questioned about the donation during a stop at the Chicago Tribune editorial board to peddle his latest pet project, increased funding for infrastructure improvements.
Rauner, whose firm already had Pennsylvania pension business, made two donations. Rendell said he later praised Rauner's firm to pension board officials as they were considering giving GTCR Golder Rauner even more money to invest.
"What happened is what I would do with anyone who gave me money," said Rendell, who pointed out that he didn't control pension officials. "I would say to the pension boards … I'd just say, 'Listen, this is a company that I know is doing good things.' I knew Bruce's company was very successful. I said, 'Take a look at them.' And that was the best I could do."
Rendell apparently sees this as no big deal. Rauner eventually gave his gubernatorial campaign $300,000.
Rendell said there was nothing out of the ordinary in his advocacy for Rauner's firm to pension officials.
"I didn't control the votes, but by opening up access it always helped. No question about it," Rendell said. "But believe me, every hedge fund, every handler that invests money in the country has that same relationship."