Citadel LLC founder and CEO Kenneth Griffin is the richest man in Chicago. (Photo via Citadel LLC’s website.)
Illinois’s richest man and fast financial friend of Gov. Bruce Rauner Ken Griffin just made history by donating $20 million to the governor’s reelection campaign. The Illinois State Board of Elections reported the contribution on Monday, which may be the one of the largest contributions by an individual to a campaign in Illinois history.
“Gov. Rauner cares deeply about the future of our state and making it a better place to live and work,” Griffin said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “He has the winning plan to create jobs, improve our schools and put Illinois on the right path forward.”
Though the Illinois gubernatorial election is more than a year and five months away, Rauner has already raised more than several wheelbarrows full of money. The governor forked over $50 million of his own money to his campaign fund last year, and Griffin’s donation brings the Rauner’s campaign war chest to a total of more than $70 million. Prior to this donation, the billionaire hedge fund manager had already donated $13,589,295.18 to Rauner, according to records published by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
The donation is another signal that the 2018 gubernatorial election is on target to be the most expensive election in Illinois history, which is no longer terribly irregular, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United, every new election cycle costs more than the previous.
Rauner’s democratic opponents and other detractors were quick to call out his newest cauldron of cash.
“Never has the Rauner re-election strategy been clearer,” said the group Illinois Working Together. “On the same day the state’s bill backlog tops $14 billion, the governor released a new campaign ad and his political campaign raked in $20 million from Illinois’ richest man. Rauner’s game plan is simple: spend millions of dollars to paper over his abysmal record of failure as governor.”
The group also tweeted a vision of what Rauner’s office might’ve looked like after the donation.
— IL Working Together (@IllinoisWorking) May 17, 2017
Meanwhile, Rauner’s opponents also took aim at him, pointing out just how expensive it has become to run for office.
“This billionaire class wants to buy Illinois for themselves,” Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar said in a statement to Chicagoist. “Don’t think for a moment these wealthy people have anyone’s interests but their own at heart.”
“We are seeing firsthand here in Illinois what happens when money has too strong a hold over our politics: Government stops working for us,” wrote Illinois Senator and challenger Daniel Biss in a campaign fundraising email. Biss also pointed out that a worker earning $8.25 an hour would have to work 10 hours a day every day for the next 644 years to earn as much as Griffin’s donation.
Despite his own status as a billionaire, candidate JB Pritzker also weighed in, saying that Rauner is putting politics over passing a state budget and pointing out his most recent donor’s contribution of $100,000 to President Donald Trump’s inauguration fund.
“It’s clear that Ken Griffin and Rauner’s special interest allies want to force the Rauner-Trump agenda on our state, which attacks our working families and is decimating our economy,” said a spokesperson for Pritzker in a statement emailed to Chicagoist.