Politics

Sun-Times Reporter Resigns After Free Beacon Report

Accusations of ethical conflict lead to resignation

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D.) / AP

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney resigned from the paper just days after the Free Beacon reported that his wife’s political firm was working to defeat Republican Bruce Rauner, who had been at the center of several critical reports by McKinney.

In a letter Wednesday to Sun-Times Chairman Michael Ferro, McKinney tendered his resignation.

"It is with great sadness today that I tender my immediate resignation from the Sun-Times," McKinney wrote on his personal blog.

While the reporter denied the allegations made by the Rauner campaign that his wife Ann Liston’s work conflicted with his political reporting, McKinney still decided to leave the paper after being placed on temporary leave.

Public records and other information obtained by the Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo connected Liston’s firm, Adelstein/Liston, to the Illinois Freedom Political Action Committee, which is backed by pro-Quinn public employee unions and has targeted Rauner throughout the 2014 campaign.

The Rauner campaign said McKinney had a clear conflict of interest and maintained that it could have impacted his work on a controversial story that accused the Republican of threatening a former colleague.

McKinney admitted that his wife does Democratic political work, but denied she is working to defeat Rauner.

"The [Rauner] campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue," McKinney claimed. "It was a last-ditch act of intimidation."

"Yes, Ann does political consulting work for Democrats," he wrote. "But she has not been involved in the Illinois’ governor’s race and has focused on out-of-state campaigns."

The reporter also revealed that even though the Sun-Times publicly stood by his reporting, he was placed on leave following the questions about his impartiality:

"I was yanked from my beat as I reported on a legislative hearing focusing on Gov. Pat Quinn’s botched Neighborhood Recovery Initiative," he wrote. "My reporting for that day was then removed inexplicably from the Sun-Times website."

"I was told to go on leave, a kind of house arrest that lasted almost a week," McKinney recalled. "It was pure hell. [Sun-Times Editor Jim] Kirk told me that his bosses were considering taking me away permanently from the political and Springfield beats. He offered up other potential jobs at the paper, all of which I considered demotions. Because of my unexplained absence from my beat, colleagues started calling, asking if I had been suspended. Or fired."

The Free Beacon has additionally learned that McKinney hired lawyer Patrick Collins, who also is tied to the Illinois Freedom PAC organization at the center of the controversy.

Collins' firm has been paid $32,739.62 by the PAC for "legal fees," according to the Illinois Board of Elections.

McKinney also revealed on his blog that, after enlisting Collins to his defense, he was permitted back to the paper.

However, McKinney was denied a byline on a campaign-related story immediately after returning.

"Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper’s editor and publisher, the company’s lawyer and our NBC5 partners?" McKinney wondered.