CHICAGO (STMW) — With Bruce Rauner already sweating a rough week in his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, state Sen. Bill Brady turned up the heat Sunday and demanded answers about Rauner’s relationship with convicted serial con man Stuart Levine.

The answer from Rauner’s camp: The men have never met.

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“Bruce doesn’t know him,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said of Levine.

But Brady, one of Rauner’s rivals in the race, stood in front of microphones outside the James R. Thompson Center on Sunday and questioned what might have been going on behind the scenes when Levine, a trustee of the Teachers Retirement System, joined in a May 2003 vote, with Rauner present, for a $50 million deal between the system and Rauner’s firm, GTCR. He left the firm in 2012.

GTCR had a stake at the time in Chicago Public Schools’ dental insurer, CompBenefits. And Schrimpf acknowledged that Levine had a contractual relationship with CompBenefits from 1996 until around the time of his indictment in 2005. But he said Rauner didn’t know that in 2003.

Schrimpf said CompBenefits was in control of its own contracts.For the record, Brady denied accusing Rauner of wrongdoing. But he began dropping Levine’s name just as Rauner is trying to recover from a flap over his conflicting statements on what to do with Illinois’ minimum wage.

Fallout from that controversy continued Sunday at Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago in the South Chicago neighborhood. A spokesman for the church said all candidates for governor are being invited there to explain their stance on the minimum wage.

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“Mr. Rauner’s brushed this off,” Brady said of the questions about Levine. “But it’s something the taxpayers and the voters won’t brush off any more than they’d brush off Mr. Rauner claiming he would cut the minimum wage by $1 per hour.”

The Chicago Sun-Times previously reported that GTCR made a $50 million pitch in February 2003 to the Teachers Retirement System. But Levine questioned a GTCR representative so aggressively that month that the trustees decided to table it.

Three months later, in May 2003, Rauner and two other GTCR representatives attended a meeting of the trustees. Levine reportedly was more low-key, hardly asking any questions, if any at all. He and the other board members approved the $50 million deal with GTCR.

Schrimpf said Rauner wasn’t behind the change in Levine’s behavior. Levine later was sentenced to 67 months in prison for a kickback scheme that eventually led to the downfall of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Schrimpf said that’s where Levine belongs.

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(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)