Political Football With Sports Facilities Agency

Jan 26, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner has picked a campaign supporter, attorney Sanchez, as chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.
Credit Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP

An ally of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will chair the state agency that owns the Chicago White Sox stadium and oversaw the renovations of Soldier Field, but one of former Governor Pat Quinn's closest confidants will still retain his high-paying post.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority has been home base for all sorts of political wins and losses over the years. And there's a whole roster of players.

Most recently, in one of Quinn's final acts, he secured the executive director's job for his former campaign manager, Lou Bertuca, who was hired without a national search. Critics say the 30-year-old Bertuca, who had no sports experience outside of playing high school football, isn't qualified for the $160,000 post. Bertuca's contract means he'll be paid a handsome sum even if he's fired.

One of the men who helped make it happen? Another Democrat: former State Senate President Emil Jones, who Quinn had earlier appointed as chairman of the authority.

Now that he's governor, Rauner has kicked Jones out. The Republican has drafted a new chair, Manny Sanchez. Though Sanchez is a prominent Democrat -- he helped lead Latino outreach for President Barack Obama's last campaign -- Sanchez backed Republican Rauner over Quinn in November's election.

"Bruce Rauner stands for the right things and until or unless we get our fiscal house in order, those things - education, health, Latinos - are going to suffer," Sanchez said in March.

Sanchez doesn't get a salary, just expenses. But as that brief rundown of gamesmanship demonstrates, it can be a powerful position.