A Chicago billionaire has given the biggest single Illinois political donation ever — in the modern-day era — to a candidate for governor of Illinois.
One of Chicago’s wealthiest men, hedge-fund CEO Ken Griffin, has donated $2.5 million to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s campaign, according to campaign disclosure records — the largest single contribution ever from an individual to any Illinois political candidate, other than the candidate’s own self funding.
The $2.5 million contribution on June 11 brings Griffin’s total contributions to Rauner to $3.57 million.
Griffin’s previous contributions include $71,026 in in-kind contributions for Rauner’s campaign to use Griffin’s personal airplane, according to election documents.
Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, ranks 103rd on Forbes’ list of the top 400 billionaires with a $4.4 billion net worth.
Griffin, who served on Rauner’s exploratory committee, was not available for comment, Citadel spokeswoman Katie Spring said.
Griffin has previously donated to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and state Senator Bill Brady.
Mike Schrimpf, a Rauner spokesman, said in an emailed statement, “I imagine Mr. Griffin is eager for a reformer like Bruce, who is willing to shake things up in Springfield and deliver results for the people of Illinois, to become governor.”
Quinn’s campaign noted that Rauner in November 2013 triggered through his own donation the provision that allows for unlimited campaign contributions in the governor’s race. That $500,000 donation in November raised the total Rauner had given to his own campaign to $749,000.
Under state law, candidates can only accept contributions of up to $5,300 from individuals and $52,600 from political action committees. But once candidates kick in at least $250,000 of their own money, those caps are lifted for everyone in the race.
“It is notable that one year ago, we were abiding by the campaign contribution limits put in place by Gov. Quinn that ended Illinois being the ‘Wild Wild West’ of campaign finance,” said Brooke Anderson, communications director for Quinn’s re-election campaign. “Then Mr. Rauner came along and single-handedly smashed those campaign contribution limits so that he and his billionaire pals could try to take over in Illinois.”
“Unfortunately for Mr. Rauner, it’s government of the many — not government of the money,” Anderson said.
The $2.5 million contribution is the biggest ever from an individual other than the candidate himself in the post-Watergate era when public disclosure records were first required, said one political scientist.
“This is far and away the largest single individual check that anyone has written to a candidate running for governor in Illinois in that time period,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at University of Illinois at Springfield.
“It’s certainly an indication of the increasingly large role that wealthy individuals are playing in American politics,” Redfield said Friday, mentioning as examples the Koch brothers, George Soros and another Rauner supporter, Lake Forest businessman Richard Uihlein, CEO of packaging supply company Uline.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in personal wealth in the past decade, and we’ve seen a huge increase in the willingness of wealthy individuals to become engaged in politics,” Redfield said.
“This is a clear indication of how that trend is continuing and probably accelerating,” he said, attributing the phenomenon to changing election laws and increasingly concentrated private wealth.
Rauner has now raised $8.3 million since his primary win in March, while Gov. Quinn has raised $1.32 million, according to election records. Quinn’s top donors in 2013-2014 are the SEIU Healthcare political action committee at $1.5 million and Democratic supporter Fred Eychaner, owner of Newsweb Corp., just topping $1 million.
Since he first entered the race, Rauner has pumped $6.57 million of his own money into this campaign.
Contributing: Art Golab