Cellini Back On The Political Scene, Backs Rauner

Apr 9, 2014

Bruce Rauner, the GOP nominee for governor, speaks with individuals at a Sangamon County Republican Foundation reception.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Springfield powerbroker William Cellini is back on the political scene, following his release from prison late last year. He was found guilty of participating in an extortion scheme when Rod Blagojevich was governor.

Cellini attended a Sangamon County Republican Foundation event Tuesday night, which featured Bruce Rauner, the party's nominee for governor.

Cellini says he backed State Senator Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary race. But now he's behind Rauner.

"Well I've been a Republican all my life and he's the Republican candidate," Cellini said.

Cellini says last night's event was the first time he heard Rauner, and says he was "impressive."

But Rauner distanced himself when a reporter asked if he welcomed that endorsement, saying "I didn't even know he was here, I don't really know him, I can't comment on that."

Rauner has been criticized for his company's contract with a man named Stuart Levine, whose testimony helped send Cellini to prison. Levine himself was incarcerated for his part in a kickback scheme tied to state pensions.

Rauner denies any pay-to-play involvement or relationship with Levine.

Rauner did not respond to questions about the most recent pension news in state government: the General Assembly's passage of a measure that would reduce some City of Chicago retirees' benefits while requiring workers pay more into their pensions. Gov. Pat Quinn been coy about whether or not he'll sign the plan into law.