Gang of billionaires bet against the richest politician in the country
A handful of billionaires, including Illinois’ richest person, a San Francisco crypto co-founder and a cousin, have spoken out against one of their own: Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker.
The Nov. 8 general election is still nearly six months away, but Illinois’ gubernatorial race is already shaping up to be one of the most expensive in history. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker and his six Republican challengers have raised a total of $206.3 million to date, nearly three-quarters of the state record $286.7 million raised by the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial candidates.
Pritzker, heir to the Chicago-based Hyatt hotel fortune and the nation’s richest politician (worth an estimated $3.6 billion, according to Forbes), self-funded his reelection efforts with $125 million in personal contributions. That’s nearly three-quarters of the record $171.5 million he gave to his 2018 campaign, surpassing Republican Bruce Rauner’s $57.8 million self-funding effort, a former capital executive. -investment. The lone Democratic challenger this time around, retired Army Maj. Beverly Miles, has yet to report any campaign contributions, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records.
Under Illinois law, when a candidate like Pritzker spends more than $250,000 on his own campaign, contribution limits are eliminated for his opponents, which helps explain the money lying around in the office. State at this time. With early voting already underway in the June 28 Republican gubernatorial primary in Illinois, three frontrunners in that primary have so far raised a total of $76.7 million. At least $55.4 million comes from eight other billionaires and their immediate family members.
Pritzker’s best-funded opponent and one of the Republican frontrunners has the backing of his longtime rival. The state’s richest person, Ken Griffin (estimated net worth $25.2 billion), founder and CEO of Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel, has spent $50 million on Aurora’s mayoral campaign , Illinois, Richard Irvin. Griffin donated $22.5 million to Pritzker’s opponent in 2018 and another $53.8 million to help defeat a tax hike proposed by the governor in 2020 (he reportedly called Pritzker a ” shameless master of personal tax evasion” in an email sent to Citadel employees at the time).
The “great-grandson of a slave and first in his family to graduate from college”, Irvin has attracted a number of other billionaire backers, portraying himself as a ‘tough on crime [former] prosecutor” who “balanced the budgets, [provided] tax relief and defeat[ed] the grassroots “Defund the Police” movement as mayor” of Aurora, according to its campaign website. Shirley Ryan, whose husband’s name, insurance magnate Patrick Ryan ($7.2 billion) adorns Northwestern’s football stadium and basketball arena, sent Irvin $250,000, while that Chicago-based real estate investment trust pioneer Sam Zell ($5.8 billion) shelled out another $100,000.
Irvin, a decorated veteran even received $5,150 from the governor’s cousin and the world’s only known transgender billionaire, Jennifer Pritzker ($2 billion). She also donated $249,000 to President Joe Biden in 2020, after donating more than $250,000 to committees supporting former President Donald Trump in 2016 (a veteran herself, Pritzker was a vocal opponent of the transgender military ban proposed by Trump in 2017).
In a statement emailed to Forbes, Jennifer Pritzker said, “I have immense respect for my cousin, JB and salute, in particular, his leadership in handling the pandemic, which has been a very difficult time for our state and our country. We value a good relationship, and that includes the freedom to disagree about certain things.
“But I am aligned with Richard Irvin on many key issues important to me, and I hope his bid for governor will help strengthen the two-party system in Illinois,” the governor’s cousin wrote. “Mr. Irvin is a supporter of unity and diversity, is the first African-American mayor of Illinois’ second-largest city, a decorated veteran, and a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility, growth economy and Second Amendment protection.His excellent public service record and professional credentials make him a very promising candidate for governor of Illinois.
Largely thanks to Griffin’s backing, Irvin has raised $53.1 million to date, more than four times as much as his closest GOP rival, a third-generation farmer and state senator. Darren Bailey, which raised $11.1 million. Of that total, $9 million comes from Richard Uihlein, the little-known CEO of family-run Wisconsin-based shipping and packaging materials company Uline, who has spent millions to elect far-right Republicans over the years. Bailey, who lists “voting integrity”, “pro-life” and “second amendment” as key issues on his campaign website, also likely benefited from Pritzker-funded television ads primarily targeting Irvin — the more moderate candidate likely seen as a bigger threat to the traditionally Democratic Illinois governor.
Barely a month ago, a joint Emerson College/WGN/The Hill Poll showed Irvin with a narrow 4% lead over Bailey in the Republican primary. And in a shocking turn of events, Irvin could now trail Bailey by up to 15%, according to a Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ Poll released last Friday.
Chris Larsen ($3 billion), the San Francisco-based co-founder of blockchain and cryptocurrency firm Ripple, has paid $5 million to a third contestant, jesse sullivana farmer-turned-philanthropist and venture capitalist focused on emerging global economies, who has vowed to “turning Chicago into a hub for cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies.”
Larsen, who has supported Sullivan’s philanthropy and investment fund for more than six years, describes the candidate as “an incredible leader” and a “bridge builder to a more unified future.” According to Larsen, Sullivan is focused on technologies that can both solve the climate crisis and grow the economy, putting Chicago in [its] legitimate position as a leading global financial center by embracing fintech and crypto.
Sullivan, who has raised $12.5 million to date, also received $10,000 from David Duffield ($8.8 billion), the Nevada-based co-founder of software companies PeopleSoft and Workday, and his wife, as well as $25,000 from Dallas-based David Rees-Jones, the son of shale fracking pioneer Trevor Rees-Jones ($4.5 billion). Sullivan has consistently trailed the two top GOP candidates in the race by a wide margin in recent polls.
It will likely be difficult for any of these potential Republican challengers to unseat Pritzker in a state that skews the Democrat by a 13% margin, according to FiveThirtyEight. As late as January, survey by Victory Research showed the governor beating each of the GOP candidates by an average of 30%. But Pritzker may feel unusually vulnerable, with a net approval rating of just +8%, according to another poll by FiveThirtyEight in May, making him the nation’s 37th most popular governor on a partisan-adjusted basis.
While his opponents hammered Pritzker on the crime, the state of the economy didn’t help. Despite a recent upgrade in the government’s credit rating from BBB to BBB+, the rating agency S&P Global still ranked Illinois as the nation’s least creditworthy state as of May 23. Still, it’s an improvement; the state debt was rated two notches down to BBB- when Pritzker took office. According to a February report According to ratings agency Moody’s, “Illinois was one of four states or territories that lost residents over the past decade, and further losses are to be expected” as “tax issues continue to plague the state”.
Although the governor hasn’t received any billionaire contributions to date, that may be because he isn’t looking for one, having decided he can afford to go it alone. “I’m not aware that JB is looking for contributions,” says his cousin John Pritzker ($2.7 billion), one of 13 billionaires and immediate family members of billionaires who combined to donate a largely symbolic $805,000 to the governor’s 2018 campaign. “I could be wrong, and I would [donate] if he asked, but he didn’t. Other billionaire backers to Pritzker’s latest campaign include his cousin Karen Pritzker ($5.3 billion); Jerry Reinsdorf, co-owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox ($1.8 billion); and Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, whose father, J. Joe Ricketts ($3.5 billion) started brokerage firm TD Ameritrade and donated $22.3 million to Trump and d other Republicans in 2020.
The governor has proven he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to win and he doesn’t seem to be expecting back-ups. Whether he ends up breaking his self-funding record from 2018 may hinge on whether Ken Griffin continues to write checks with his favorite candidate now trailing in the primary – and on the emergence of more billionaires to help. Griffin to reduce the Governor’s funding advance. With the general election over six months away, anything can happen.