By: Mark Glennon*
Over the past few months I’ve been trying to find some means to short sell Illinois to hedge against the chance that Pat Quinn wins. Is there perhaps a way to short sell real estate, or bonds issued by the state or its municipalities?
Through my work I am lucky enough to know some very savvy, accomplished financial types, so I have been asking them. No luck finding an easy means. Here’s an email that’s typical of the answers I got. It came from a very successful former trader, now a high profile angel investor:
The only true short is to move. Shorting muni’s is impossible because there is no transparency. Plus, my assumption is they will kick the can down the road and the accounting will make it look like they have done something when the reality is they haven’t. I sold all my Illinois real estate and won’t buy until after the election.
Another common answer was to change residency. That’s easy for the most well-off folks because they typically have another home in a warmer state anyway, but not an option for the rest of us working to put kids through school.
One thing is clear: If Pat Quinn wins it’s lights out for Illinois. Illinois is being looted by its political class and public pensions. The barbarians are not at the gates. They are over them. That’s no exaggeration and we have documented the hard proof here for two years. Cook County Democrats are the core of the problem. They will retain control of the legislature, and Pat Quinn is their useful idiot.
It’s not that Bruce Rauner has turned out to be the perfect candidate. He has promised too much to too many, which is why his numbers don’t work, and his thinking on pensions is opaque. It’s not entirely clear how much he could do if he wins, though he could definitely halt further bleeding.
The choice of Rauner over Quinn nevertheless remains as obvious as a bullet lodged in your nose, and this is the most important election in Illinois’ history.
Way back in December I listed 36 reasons why Rauner should be governor. Most of those reasons hold today and they are listed again below. The exceptions are the prediction that Rauner would trounce Quinn and that Quinn’s demagogic populism would be discredited once and for all. Instead, this race is too close to call and demagogic populism may yet prevail.
If somebody does know a means of shorting Illinois please let me know. But send it confidentially and not as a public comment because that means would surely become, as they say in the business, a “crowded trade.”
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints
He’s financially conservative and socially moderate — like the majority of us, and we’re fed up with the extremists in both parties.
He’s superbly competent in finance and management efficiency — the things Illinois most needs. His career was in private equity, the best performing asset class of the investment world, and he was a superstar in it. Private equity firms like the one he ran invest in a variety of companies and succeed by bringing operational efficiency to them. Rauner got paid for performance, and perform he did, making millions for himself and multiples of that for institutions whose money he invested — especially pensions, which made a killing off of him.
He’s self-made. No family money, no name, no silver spoon.
He’s leading the fight for term limits in Illinois. Term limits are an extreme remedy, but appropriate for the extreme disease of entrenched incumbents in Illinois.
He’s an outsider, but didn’t just fall off the truck. We need a newcomer with an attitude, but newcomers to government often have a steep learning curve. Rauner has played in the big leagues where government meets business through his investment and philanthropic work, and when he entered this race he cultivated the best advice available from pros and winners across the nation. He’ll do the same as governor.
He’s following a great role model on fiscal issues, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who delivered a surplus, a tax refund, and a strong economy to Indiana despite the Great Recession. Rauner consults with him regularly.
He’ll set a precedent for electable Republicans in Illinois, restoring the two-party system we lost. He’ll be the template, and seeing a fiscal conservative/social moderate elected in blue Illinois sure won’t hurt the national Republican party, either.
He’ll be a nationally recognized champion for Illinois technology and entrepreneurship, which are among Illinois’ best rays of hope. He was part of that community so he understands it and loves it like no candidate ever in Illinois.
He won’t be influenced by campaign contributors or special interests. Gazillionaires don’t get bought.
He’s exceptionally smart. Got himself into Dartmouth, graduating summa cum laude in Economics, and Harvard Business School — on his own merit, unlike so many Ivy Leaguers. But street smart, too, excelling in a hard ball profession and running a flawless political campaign so far.
He’s numerate. Ignorance and denial of the horrible numbers behind our fiscal mess are pandemic in Illinois. Rauner understands numbers and money.
He’s giving. He believes in free markets but isn’t part of the greed-is-good crowd that has bastardized some free market philosophy. He’s poured tens of millions into causes like Chicago’s Red Cross, the YMCA, charter high schools, scholarships for disadvantaged kids, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and results-based compensation systems for Chicago teachers.
His wife is a force for charity in her own right — a leading advocate for early childhood development assistance. She’s president of Ounce of Prevention, providing developmental assistance to impoverished preschool kids.
He’s no Mitt Romney. “Vote for me, you moochers” — that’s how Romney let his message get characterized, and his charity extended only to his Mormon church. Not Rauner. To Rauner, Illinoisans are decent folks who’ve been betrayed by political hacks.
He’s friends with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Chicago and Illinois have a shared fiscal crisis requiring cooperative solutions, and personal relationships get stuff done. Their policy views clash, but Rauner will be talking sense into Rahm, and Rahm will listen.
He has an extraordinary capacity for work. His staff says they can’t keep up with his pace.
Public sector unions fear him. No public figure in Illinois in our lifetime has spoken out against their excessive control over government as boldly as Rauner, and public sector unions are a root source of Illinois’ problems.
Karen Lewis despises him.
Business (i.e., employers) love him. Enough of demonizing them.
He won’t use government to cram social and religious views down our throats. That’s not government’s place and that’s not Rauner’s thing.
He relates especially well to working class Illinoisans. Critics who say that’s impossible for a wealthy, successful guy haven’t seen him on the campaign trail.
He’s not afraid to criticize fellow Republicans who sold out to union money — and there are more of those than Illinois understands.
He’s a warrior in the best sense of that word — the way Michael Jordan used the term. He plays hard and wins, as those who’ve worked with him say.
He’ll try to fix the pension crisis once and completely, replacing it with a 401(k) style plan. No more kicking the can down the road as the recent bill did.
He’ll prioritize protection for retirees who really need their pensions, not the double-dippers, spikers, early retirees and gluttons. He knows that many rank-and-file retirees have only their pensions to separate them from abject poverty — no social security or other benefits for many of them — and that only real pension reform will protect them. He understands that and he cares enough to make the distinction. He’ll bring fundamental fairness to pension reform.
He understands pensions like few others. Pensions repeatedly invested in the firm he ran, GTCR, because he made outsized returns for them (an extraordinary 16% per year), continually outperforming other firms and asset classes. Pensions would be much poorer if not for his work. Now that he left that career and speaks out about the problems in defined benefit pension plans, union leaders turned on him and call him public enemy No 1. In reality, no candidate understands the issues inherent in those plans the way Rauner does.
He’s not in it for a career. Two terms as governor and that’s it, he’s promised.
He’s not in it for a pension. Doesn’t need it.
He’ll inspire talented people to join Illinois government. Accomplished folks in the private sector already are pouring time and money into his campaign and, after he wins, they’ll be on board to help restore Illinois.
He’ll do exceptionally well for a Republican in Cook County, which is key to defeating Quinn.
He’ll reform education – which has been his passion and the primary target of his philanthropy since he retired from private equity.
He likes kids and dogs. Anybody who doesn’t is no good.
He says the things we say here at WirePoints. Rauner appeared on the political scene a few months after we launched here, and we were stunned to see a candidate arise saying pretty much everything we were saying.
His race against Quinn will be a referendum on the class warfare and demagogic populism practiced by Quinn and many on the left. That crap will be discredited, which is long overdue. His former profession, venture capital and private equity, will also be villainized with the usual hogwash, which will be trashed by facts at last.
He’ll beat Quinn. Into pulp. Having gone from near zero name recognition to front runner in just months, he’s already shown he knows how to run a superb campaign. He’ll win the ‘air war’ because he has the doe for expensive media and, more importantly, he’ll win the ‘ground war’ because he alone among Republican candidates has a huge army of enthused volunteers to work the streets and get out the vote.
He’s fearless. Early this year while checking him out, I talked to an accomplished entrepreneur now running a large healthcare company, Mark Thierer, who had earlier worked with Rauner in the private sector. “There are lots of great things I could tell you about him,” Thierer said, “but know this above all else: He’s fearless. Utterly fearless. Nothing stops him.” Finally, a candidate with guts. Rauner will need that more than any other trait.
One bad thing: He rides a Harley. Too noisy. Should be muffled. Government regulation needed.