Why The Sun-Times Sale Is So Important

In our last edition, we celebrated the new group of investors who bought the Chicago Sun-Times, but let’s take a deeper dive into why it’s important.

Back in December, 2011, a group called Wrapports was founded to buy the paper. Chicago Magazine reported that Bruce Rauner took ten percent of the deal, and his buddy, Mike Ferro, Jr, was designated Chairman. Among the other Wrapports investors were Joe Mansueto who would later give $205,300 to Citizens for Rauner, William Wrigley, Jr. who would give $35,300, and others. Of course, we don’t know how much money these folks and others gave to dark money groups who ran ads in support of Rauner.

Hindsight being 20/20, it’s hard not to believe that Rauner bought the paper specifically to boost his candidacy down the road. On June 5, 2013, Rauner announced that he was running for governor. He sold his share to his buddies, but they all stayed around to “mind the store.”

Then there was the whole endorsement business. Oddly, the Sun-Times announced in January, 2012, that it would no longer issue endorsements for political races. Keep in mind that the paper had a long history of endorsing Democrats. The new management group would never -heavens to Betsy, never!- influence editorial policy. But contrary to their policy to not issue endorsements, on October 17, 2014, the paper ran a strong argument that surely read like an endorsement of Rauner on their editorial page, followed by an announcement that a full-out endorsement would appear a few days later. They were true to their word.

The same week that the endorsement appeared, the paper effectively fired their longtime, extremely well respected Springfield reporter, Dave McKinney after some reporting he had done that was not flattering to Rauner. Technically he resigned, but H.R. guys like me (and the courts) call this sort of thing “constructive discharge.”

This kind of manipulation of the press is incredibly dangerous to our democracy. Whether it’s Bruce Rauner purchasing a newspaper or Donald Trump disparaging nearly all major newspapers, the deliberate undermining of a free press has been a precursor to every coup, junta and despot in history. It’s a warning that must be heeded.

The people of Illinois have buyer’s remorse about Rauner. Politico’s Illinois Playbook reports that a recent poll has Rauner losing to a generic Democrat 49% to 37%. In addition, his negative job rating is down 10 full points since January among white voters over 60, and there are similar drops among independents, Chicago voters, and collar-county voters. Also, check out State Rep. Sam Yingling’s scathing op-ed in the Tribune, Bruce Rauner Doesn’t Care.

So let’s show that we get it. We can give one more huge cheer for Edwin Eisendrath and his associates for stepping up to restore credibility and honor to the Sun-Times. But we can do more. Nancy and I just subscribed. I hope you will too.

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