Kristina Rasmussen Out as Gov Rauner’s Chief of Staff, After 88 Days

Kristina Rasmussen and family join Gov Rauner on her selection as his Chief of Staff

Springfield — She came in to turn things around for Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration.  It was just 88 days ago, back in July, in what would normally have been a quet time to sink into the job as the Governor’s new Chief of Staff.

But on Friday afternoon, around 1 pm, a statement was put out from the Governor’s office that Rasmussen was being replaced by Roger Heaton. 

File photo

“I’m excited to promote Rodger to be our team leader,” Rauner said. “His combination of legal, legislative and policy experience will help us build on the significant improvements that Kristina accomplished in a very compressed and challenging time.”

Heaton has had a 30-year career in law, litigation, law enforcement and policy. From 2005 to 2009, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, the chief federal law enforcement official for 46 counties. He also served on the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a body that advises the Attorney General on all policy matters related to the justice system.

Kristina Rasmussen, [ photo courtesy of Hendrik Rasmussen]
Kristina Rasmussen was caught in a political whirlwind, that saw Gov Rauner’s budget veto overridden by the legislature, including 15 Republicans who voted with the Democrats.  Then came the tug-of-war over the funding of the schools, and whether Chicago should be getting a payment toward their pensions.

That meant the “Quiet Summer” at the Capitol was no where to be found, as the legislative wars with the governor continued into the first week of September.

Contributing to the disarray and chaos of the summer, was the governor’s decision to sign a bill many conservatives thought was a sell-out to the Hispanic voters, when he signed a bill many thought made Illinois a “Sanctuary State” by telling police they could not question individuals about their legal status in the country, unless the individual was suspected of committing a crime.

But the end to the Rasmussen era as COS, was most likely due to the Governor’s signing HB-40, which allowed for taxpayer funding of abortions, and the use of state employees healthcare benefits to cover abortions.  For many conservatives that was the breaking point for their support of Bruce Rauner.

One of those breaking with the Governor following that bill signing was John Tillman, who had long been one of Gov Rauner’s strongest supporters. Tillman heads the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think-tank, that also engages in policy advocacy.

One of the financial supporters of that institute, it is believed, is the Governor himself. His strong association with the IPI, was apparently one reason Gov Rauner turned to Kristina Rasmussen as his new Chief of Staff in July, as she had served as the Vice President at the there.

IL Policy Institute’s CEO, John Tillman

But after HB-40 was signed, John Tillman took to Facebook and wrote that the Governor was now “Benedict Rauner” — and obvious reference to the Revolutionary War traitor, Benedict Arnold.

So while it was a surprise to many that Rasmussen was suddenly let go on Friday as Chief of Staff, it was perhaps to be expected, in the wake of the Republican revolt against the Governor.

The statement by the Governor mentioned that Rasmussen was leaving of her own accord to pursue other interests. And yet, earlier on Friday, Oct 6, Rasmussen posted a photo on Facebook, that seemed to indicated she was starting off the day determined to be productive.

There were other reports prior today, that suggested the Governor was pushing Rasmussen off to the side and working more closely with Rodger Heaton, who in fact has been selected to serve as his new Chief of Staff — the third one in three months.

After the news of her leaving her post was made public, John Tillman posted on Facebook, “I have a long said that working with Kristina Rasmussen has been the greatest professional partnership of my career. I have the deepest respect for her talent, her commitment to excellence and her willingness to take on great challenges and succeed. Her skilled leadership built one of the most influential taxpayer advocacy groups in the country. Every family and business in Illinois has benefited from her leadership and professionalism.

I also note that as she departs from her role as Gov. Rauner’s Chief of Staff, that the three biggest accomplishments the Rauner campaign cites are three things in which Kristina was instrumental.

The Mark Janus case, now going to the U.S. Supreme Court, would not have happened if Kristina, our team and the National Right to Work Legal Foundation had not intervened in the governor’s lawsuit.

Second, local Right to Work in Lincolnshire happened because, again while she was serving in an executive role at the Illinois Policy Institute, Kristina led our team in helping the very courageous Lincolnshire village president and village board adopt local Right to Work. That is now working its way through the federal courts as well.

Then, as the governor’s chief of staff, the scholarship tax credit program happened because Kristina worked with policy director (and former Institute vice president of policy) Michael Lucci to craft an amendatory veto that created the negotiating leverage to get it done.”

Rasmussen will continue to work until next week, as the new Chief of Staff  Rodger Heaton, who served as the governor’s Director of Public Safety and Homeland Security, starts in that role on Monday.