Chicago, Illinois - GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner - and close friend of Rahm Emanuel - has long denied he has anything to do with the mysterious attacks against his Republican opponents by out-of-state committees and cloaked donors. But in the wake of the latest allegations against Illinois treasurer Dan Rutherford reported Friday, Rauner's denials are wearing thin.
Let's consider these attacks one-by one:
After decades of a relatively clean record in Illinois politics - and that's saying something - GOP candidate for governor Dan Rutherford now finds himself in the middle of a political tornado just a few weeks before the primary: a Rutherford employee has suddenly accused him of sexual harassment (word is it's a male) and, further, that Rutherford pressured him to do campaign work on state time.
Apparently, the complainer's attorney, Christine Svenson approached Rutherford's office and demanded $300,000 in hush money for her client to keep the allegation under wraps.
But Rutherford would have none of it and held a press conference Friday shining a big ole' light on the allegations and pointed the finger of blame at his opponent gazillionaire money manager Rauner as the culprit.
Svenson had previously done some legal work for Rauner (who has his pick of any lawyer anywhere so why choose Svenson?) and is connected to the Illinois Policy Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization, which received $500,000 from Rauner. As it happens, IPI's main board member, Elizabeth Christie, is also Rauner's co-finance chair.
IPI is linked to another group - the Illinois Opportunity Project, a 501(c)(4) group is housed at the same office space. A board member of this group, Robert Costello, was treasurer of Rauner's term limits petition committee. Svenson is also the attorney for Dan Proft, another IOP board member and senior fellow of Illinois Policy Institute.
Rauner, of course, has denied that he had anything to do with the convenient allegations against Rutherford, who is second in the polls and is the only GOP candidate with enough money to run TV spots.
Everything about this attack on Rutherford is suspicious: the strangely convenient timing, Rutherford's practically spotless record, Svenson's ties to Rauner, and a year of mysterious attacks against Rauner's political competition in general.
Mysterious attacks? Yes, there have been many mysterious attacks against Rauner's opponents and all of them have been from third-party untraceable entities with cloaked donors.
This week, a 501(c)(4) called Mid America Fund spent $180,000 on broadcast and radio ad spots against Rauner's three GOP opponents this week. The agent for the fund is Roberta J. Mertz of St. Clairsville, Ohio.
The group can spend unlimited amounts savaging Rauner's opponents - as long as Rauner is not connected to the group. So, again, Rauner is denying he has anything to do with the mystery PAC's spending. The media - to date - have just repeated Rauner's denials.
All of this is reminiscent of two other mysterious attacks against another Rauner opponent, Rep. Aaron Schock, who announced an exploratory committee for governor early last year.
The Jobs and Progress Fund - another mysterious Ohio-based PAC - financed more than $700,000 in negative TV and radio ads and mailers against Schock in his home district in January 2013 - right after he announced his interest in running for governor.
In a statement on Facebook, Schock's Chief of Staff, Steven Shearer suggested Rauner was again the culprit. Again, Rauner's campaign denied any involvement.
Still stung over the attack ads on Schock, Shearer formed the Republican Fund for Jobs and Progress last month to "educate voters about GOP candidate Bruce Rauner."
Within days of the PAC being formed, Gawker released a sketchy piece attempting to out Schock as gay with a rumor-laced Facebook post by journalist Itay Hod. Not exactly a bright and shining moment in the annals of journalism.
For GOP primary voters, Rauner's relationship with Rahm and his hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to the Democrat party in return for union pension business (yes, that's what it looks like) is not a plus.
The upshot: now Rutherford and Schock have both been attacked with gay rumor-filled controversies and Ohio-based political action committees with cloaked donors spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads against them.
This is not something the media should be so casually dismissing.
If Rauner is behind these attacks - and there is significant reason to believe he is - he has truly mastered the art of political deceit and manipulation. The portrait of Bruce Rauner that is emerging is not one of a principled outsider but of a vindictive, power-hungry politician.
Perhaps Rauner has learned a lesson or two from his pal Rahm after all.