One of the reasons why people near Treasurer Dan Rutherford are so nervous these days is because of the possibility that other employees might come out of the woodwork with even more allegations.
As I write this, the publicly revealed facts are still quite thin. A now former employee of Rutherford’s has claimed, without producing any hard evidence as of this writing, that he was sexually harassed and told to do political fundraising work. Rutherford has flatly denied the allegations, claiming they are politically motivated and part of a shakedown attempt that’s being pushed by his Republican gubernatorial primary opponent Bruce Rauner. The former employee, Rutherford claims, demanded $300,000 through his attorney to remain quiet. Rauner has denied any involvement.
The treasurer’s office has negotiated two previous severance agreements.
But a top Rutherford aide completely and adamantly denied last week that the prior severance agreements had anything to do with any sort of allegations of misconduct by Rutherford whatsoever. So, Rutherford’s allies can probably rest easy on that potential problem because it likely doesn’t exist.
Working for Rutherford, however, is sometimes anything but a pleasant experience. He is, like many in politics, a man driven by ambition who has long aimed his sights at a higher office.
For instance, several weeks ago, Rutherford, an aide and a driver were on the road. Rutherford was not happy with the driver’s performance at an event. As punishment, Rutherford ordered the driver to remain in the car while he and the other aide went into a restaurant. Rutherford also reportedly took the car keys with him. The devastated young man called his sister and had her pick him up and quit on the spot.
A top aide to Rutherford confirmed the story the other day, but brushed it off, explaining that everybody has their bad moments. We all do, indeed, have our bad moments, which shouldn’t wind up being used to judge our complete character.
While admittedly on the extreme end of his personality spectrum, it’s that sort of behavior, which has Rutherford’s allies worried about what some other employees might say to a lawyer or a reporter. And there are a dozen or more stories of a similar nature. The treasurer has more than a few disgruntled people in his office.
But potential trouble from revenge-minded employees represents only a small part of the storm facing the treasurer. We’ll see if those stories hold up to scrutiny.
The very real possibility of a Rutherford political collapse has not yet completely deterred labor groups from pushing ahead with their plan to attack Bruce Rauner via negative TV ads. However, they don’t seem as confident as they were a month ago that the strategy will work.
• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.