Rauner’s High-End Wine Club Adds to Class-Warfare Fight

Illinois politics is buzzed about Bruce Rauner -- and Rahm Emanuel’s -- taste for expensive vino in the latest development in a campaign that has been dominated by class warfare.

Rauner, the billionaire Republican nominee for governor in the nation’s fifth-most-populous state, told reporters today that he belongs to an exclusive wine club that costs more than $100,000 to join.

The question arose after a weekend report in the Chicago Tribune that included a 2010 photo taken by a Montana newspaper showing Emanuel walking along the banks of the Yellowstone River while holding a bottle of Napa Valley Reserve that can only be bought through the club.

Rauner, 58, a friend and former business colleague of Chicago’s mayor, is also in the photo. At the time the image was taken near Rauner’s Montana vacation home, Emanuel was President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff.

The two men met during Emanuel’s brief stint in the investment-banking business and share an interest in remaking public education.

Emanuel earned at least $17 million in three years as an investment banker after leaving President Bill Clinton’s White House, public records show. Some of that income came from a deal involving Rauner’s GTCR LLC, a private-equity firm based in Chicago.


“You just can’t get more out-of-touch than Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner,” Izabela Miltko, a spokesman for Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, said in a statement today. “While enjoying a luxury $140,000 wine club membership, Republican Bruce Rauner actually proposed to cut the minimum wage.”

Rauner, who has worked in finance for three decades, owns nine homes and reported $53 million in 2012 income, Bloomberg Markets magazine reported in June. Polls reflect a close contest in Obama’s home state, where a Republican last won a gubernatorial election in 1998.

Emanuel has endorsed Quinn for re-election, although the photo could present problems for his own bid for another term early next year. The first-term mayor faces the prospect of a February 2015 challenge from Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union president and someone who has suggested Emanuel is an elitist who hasn’t represented the needs of average families.

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