The news this week that Gov. Bruce Rauner named former Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder to the Illinois Racing Board got us wondering: How does an appointment like this originate?
Turns out, it was Republican State Sen. Matt Murphy who helped broker the deal. Murphy knew Mulder was a supporter of Arlington Park, which is in Arlington Heights and his district, so he reached out to Mulder to gauge her interest, and mentioned her name to Rauner’s team.
From there things happened fast, and Mulder attended her first monthly meeting of the Racing Board this week. She’ll make $300 per monthly meeting for the appointment, which runs until 2020 if she receives confirmation from the Illinois Senate.
“I’ve known Arlene for years,” Murphy said. “I knew she just stepped out of her governmental jobs. I just thought from my years of dealing with her, she was an advocate for the track, and she knew the issues surrounding horse racing in Illinois. She’s smart, she’s honest and she has something to offer. So I thought it was a logical fit.”
Mulder told us she supports Arlington Park but insists she won’t be a shill for the track. The Racing Board regulates off-track betting parlors and the state’s horseracing tracks, and one of its main roles is to set the annual calendar, telling the tracks which days live races can be held. The tracks have long pushed for slot machines to better compete with casinos, but it’s unclear if and how the Racing Board would be involved if that ever became a reality.
Either way, Mulder said, “I’m obviously supportive and appreciative and proud that Arlington Park is in Arlington Heights, but I try to look at every side of every issue before I make any kind of decision. I’m not in one person’s corner. I listen to everybody.”
Mulder retired as mayor of Arlington Heights in 2013, after 20 years on the job. She also recently was on the Metra board, and served as chairwoman of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, but has given up those spots as well.
Mulder said they haven’t talked for years, but as mayor she had a friendly relationship with Dick Duchossois, the chairman of Arlington Park, who told us he likes her appointment, although he insisted he had nothing to do with it.
“She’s got the business background, she’s a leader and, most important, we’ve never had on that Racing Board people who look at finances. She’ll do a good job,” Duchossois said.
Mulder’s appointment came just days after Rauner revealed the names of people who donated to his transition and inauguration. Duchossois was listed among people who gave “up to $50,000.”
This being Illinois, we wondered whether the donation had anything to do with Mulder’s selection, so we asked Rauner’s press team about it.
Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said, “Good Lord . . . The answer is no.”
This blog entry was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Patrick McCraney, who can be reached at email@example.com or (815) 483-1612.
Image credit: Horses / www.illinois.gov/irb