As Ken Griffin leaves the state, Illinois has another $100 million primary


Billionaire Ken Griffin’s decision to move his hedge fund Citadel to Florida, just days before a Republican primary on Tuesday in which he has invested heavily, could become a major turning point in the future of the Illinois GOP, and in particular the fate of Republican campaigns and fundraising.

Griffin’s departure from Chicago could also dramatically shift the balance in the battle of billionaires that has been fought between him and his political nemesis, Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, as each has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the outcome. elections.

Pat Brady, a former state GOP chairman, acknowledged that if Griffin leaves the political scene in Illinois, it will create hardship for Republicans in the short term. But, he said, it could also force the party to be less dependent on a few wealthy donors and return to a more traditional and broader fundraising effort.

“We have to get back to basics, and one of the fundamentals of politics is to raise funds. And I think there’s a whole generation, a new generation of donors that Republicans haven’t tapped into and maybe don’t like the way things are going in this state,” Brady said.

“I think probably in the long run it’s a good development if we don’t rely on one guy, not that we wouldn’t welcome Ken Griffin’s money and appreciate it,” he said. he declares. “But what happens is you get lazy and that’s why I think the Democrats are in trouble with Governor Pritzker. They have a guy who is going to do all the checks, and it’s not good. Parties are meant to be bottom-up organizations. That’s how you get people to vote.

Griffin, who is worth $25.2 billion, according to Forbes, has spent nearly $180 million on broadly Republican-aligned state and local candidates and groups since 2002. He has spent $129 million over the past just four years, including $50 million on its current slate of GOP primary candidates led by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s gubernatorial bid.

Pritzker, entrepreneur and heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes. He spent more than $170 million to win the governorship in 2018 over Griffin-backed Republican one-term Governor Bruce Rauner. Pritzker also pumped millions more into Democratic campaigns and organizations.

Griffin’s jaw-dropping timing — so close to primary day — of Citadel’s move to Miami suggests that he may be ceding not only the electoral outcome of his projected candidates, but also his billionaire battle to Pritzker. A loss of Irvin would represent a spectacular political fire. Griffin’s move also signals a new financial emergence of a third billionaire, Richard Uihlein, the ultraconservative megadonor who founded private office supplies company Uline.

Uihlein is supporting Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia in the GOP gubernatorial primary and has contributed $9 million to Bailey’s campaign — the largest personal donation Uihlein has ever made to a candidate. Uihlein also gave an independent political action committee on expenses allied with Bailey nearly $8.1 million. Industry spending figures showed Griffin’s investment with Irvin has paid more than $28.5 million in TV ads since the mayor of Aurora announced his candidacy in January.

But the effect of these Griffin-funded Irvin ads was offset by a flurry of ads that supported Bailey and attacked Irvin. This included nearly $8 million in ads run by Bailey’s campaign, $5.5 million in ads attacking Irvin and paid for by the independent Bailey-affiliated PAC, $24.6 million in Pritzker ads, many of which who attacked Irvin, and $16.1 million in ads from the Pritzker-backed Democratic Governors Association.

Pritzker and Democrats think Bailey will be easier to defeat in November’s general election, so their ads have come under fire Irvin and offered Bailey indirect support with the GOP base by calling the Downstate senator “too conservative” for Illinois.

The effect of the Uihlein-Pritzker tag team might have been too much to overcome, said a person knowledgeable about the Aurora mayor’s campaign who was not authorized to speak publicly. Plus, the person said, if Irvin wins the nomination following a bruised primary, it could cost Griffin another $100 million to try to undo the damage and keep Irvin competitive with Pritzker.

Now the question becomes, if Bailey wins the Republican nomination to face Pritzker in November, how much money would Uihlein give the Downstate farmer and state senator to counter the incumbent’s self-funding? Uihlein did not respond to a request for comment.

Griffin’s aides also did not respond to questions about his future involvement in funding Republican candidates and causes in Illinois. But if Griffin backs down from funding politicians, a prominent Illinois Republican said, “It’s going to be tough” for fundraising in the future.

“I think it’s going to be harder to make the case to Ken Griffin that Illinois is a good place to invest for politics when he leaves because it’s a bad state for his business,” said the Republican, who asked not to be identified, so as not to jeopardize his relationship with Griffin. “We all wondered if Ken Griffin would just raise his hand and say, ‘I tried and now I’m going to move on to better, greener pastures. “”

But Ronald Gidwitz, a major Republican fundraiser including for former President Donald Trump, said it was premature to rescind Griffin’s future support for Republicans in Illinois. He noted that Griffin had donated $40 million to groups involved in congressional races across the country.

“Just because he’s moving to Florida doesn’t mean he won’t be interested in certain candidates in Illinois or Chicago,” said Gidwitz, who was Trump’s ambassador to Belgium. “But going forward, it seems to me that if we have candidates who are worth supporting, he will give it.”

Gidwitz called Griffin’s departure a “tragic loss” for Chicago because of his leadership and philanthropy.

The money from Griffin, Pritzker and Uihlein means Illinois will hold its second straight $100 million primary election, even if only the Republican race is contested. Almost half of that money comes from Democrats trying to help Bailey.

Four years ago, a total of $124.5 million was spent as Rauner narrowly won renomination against former State Representative Jeanne Ives, while Pritzker won a six-man battle for the Democratic nomination. Pritzker spent $68 million and Rauner spent $37 million, according to campaign records compiled by Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

This time around, TV and radio ad spending from the start of 2022 to Tuesday’s primaries shows $90.4 million was spent as six men vie for the Republican primary nomination, according to AFP records. ‘industry. Pritzker, facing nominal opposition, and the Democratic Governors Association have spent at least $40.7 million on television ads that largely attempt to sway the GOP outcome.

At least another $30 million was spent on social media advertising, such as YouTube and Facebook, based on common campaign spending practices, with even millions more spent on mailings to voters.

Just a dozen years ago, with competitive primary races for governor in both parties, total spending was $25 million, according to Redfield’s research.

In addition to spending by billionaires, other factors included moving the primary from March to June, allowing more time for spending, and Democratic involvement in the GOP primary, Redfield said.

For the first industry record since the first show of the year, nearly $59 million was spent on television ads in the governor’s race on Chicago television and cable channels. The spending was led by Pritzker’s $15.1 million, Irvin’s $15 million, and DGA’s $7.45 million.

But the spending has been so ubiquitous that even in Rockford, the nation 139th largest media marketnearly $8 million was spent on ads, led by $2.8 million by Irvin, $1.9 million by Pritzker, and $1.75 million by the DGA.

Redfield said the increase in spending represents the shift from what had been a patronage-led, party-organized effort to “bring the faithful to the polls” to a more tech-driven product-selling style model. in which “you can substitute capital for labor” to get people to vote.

With a wealth disparity, Redfield said he expects a few wealthy individuals to continue to be the backbone of political fundraising in the future, regardless of Griffin’s departure.

“You have a huge concentration of wealth and wealth disparities and we know they are intensifying,” Redfield said. “I don’t know what line it was, but basically everyone has to have a hobby. The rich can deal with all sorts of things, but one of them is politics.

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