Bruce Rauner Admits Spending More On Wine Club Than Most Families Make In A Year

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Bruce Rauner, Republican candidate Illinois Governor, addresses the crowd during Republican Day at
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Bruce Rauner, Republican candidate Illinois Governor, addresses the crowd during Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., August 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

An Illinois GOP gubernatorial hopeful trying to downplay attacks related to his personal wealth has admitted he belongs to an elite California wine club where the initiation fee reportedly costs around $140,000 -- nearly three times the median household income for Illinois families.

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner once made a point to describe himself as 1 percent of the 1 percent. His efforts at everyman relatability -- including donning a Carhartt work jacket in ads and waxing rhapsodic about his $18 watch -- haven't slowed Democratic comparisons to Mitt Romney.

Tuesday, he initially batted away a question about his membership to the Napa Valley Reserve wine club.

“I have many investments, and I am a member of many clubs,” Rauner said at a press conference, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He responded “Yes” when pressed to confirm his membership.

Rauner's lavish wine spending first came under scrutiny when the Chicago Tribune published a photo of the Republican candidate and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) palling around in one of Rauner's nine homes, a Napa Valley Reserve bottle in hand.

The image of two wealthy politicians enjoying pricey wine has been a favorite attacking point of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), whom Rauner hopes to unseat in the ever-tightening gubernatorial race.

On Tuesday, Quinn, a former tax attorney, told HuffPost Live he'd been eating meals of bananas and graham crackers for a week-long minimum wage challenge. His campaign, meanwhile, has continued to push a narrative of Rauner as an out-of-touch "billionaire." (Rauner, who made his fortune at a private equity firm, earned some $50 million in 2013.)

As Chicago Magazine notes, Napa Reserve isn't the typical bottle-by-mail "wine club" affair. Rather, "it’s somewhere between a dude ranch, a time-share for hobbyist winemakers, and Costco for wine collectors."

The invitation-only club has a one-time membership fee roughly equivalent to the cost of a new home, and annual membership costs were previously reported to be around $7,000. Once part of the club, Napa Valley Reserve members can fork over as much as $175,000 to own two rows in the vineyard, or pay as little as $72 a bottle.



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