Diana Rauner has been in the cross hairs of her husband’s gubernatorial job ever since she decided to keep her position as president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a children’s nonprofit that gets state funding.
But Bruce Rauner’s re-election plans may prove to be an even greater challenge.
The governor has poured $50 million into his campaign war chest in an apparent effort to scare off potential Democratic challengers. It might work on some, but not likely J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire entrepreneur who’s popped up as a possible candidate.
A Rauner vs. Pritzker race could be especially awkward for Diana Rauner as Pritzker is a national leader in early childhood education and has supported the Ounce, which funds early childhood education programs. Earlier this year, Pritzker and his wife, M.K. Pritzer, gave $5 million to the organization. He and Diana also are friends.
Pritzker and the Rauners declined to comment. In a statement, the Ounce says it and its leadership, including its president, “will not weigh in on the 2018 gubernatorial campaigns.” Of the Pritzkers, the Ounce said, “We value our longstanding partnership with them built on mutual respect, and expect that to continue.”
Pritzker’s involvement in early childhood education runs deep. He worked behind the scenes on a 2014 White House summit on the issue, where he committed $25 million to early childhood education. He underwrote the work of Nobel laureate James Heckman at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker Consortium on Early Childhood Development. And when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich created a universal preschool program, Pritzker supported that, too.
A big-money gubernatorial race may sicken those worried about cash controlling politics. Given her passion for the Ounce, you have to wonder whether Diana has the stomach for such a race. Or will she secretly root for Pritzker to win?
Giving is good, but asking is great
James O’Connor Sr. doesn’t make headlines for multimillion dollar donations, but he’s invaluable to the nonprofits he wraps his arms around.
During the past year, the former CEO and chairman of Commonwealth Edison and his family combined to raise millions of dollars for more than a dozen nonprofit organizations in Chicago.
It’s not about a lot of zeroes but “breadth,” says O’Connor. “We’re particularly interested in working with those on the margins.” He and his wife, Ellen, are a symbol of generational giving as their three grown children and spouses also step up to support causes — from social service agencies to cultural institutions and civic groups.
This year, O’Connor helped Monsignor Kenneth Velo and a few others raise a whopping $12.5 million for Big Shoulders Fund’s annual gala — surpassing all other fundraising events in Chicago and putting it on par with some of the largest fundraisers in the country.
O’Connor and his family wrote checks and sought donations from their many business and civic relationships. They helped raise $2.2 million for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s Butterfly Ball; $1 million for the 100 Club, which helps fallen police officers and firefighters; and $1.1 million for WINGS domestic-violence centers. They also supported Shedd Aquarium’s gala after leading the event last year.
“He doesn’t just give. He asks,” says Josh Hale, CEO of the Big Shoulders Fund. “He’s genuine and truly believes in the cause.”
Son Jim O’Connor Jr., an investment banker, chaired the Momentum gala that raised $1.5 million for the 1871 entrepreneurial center. “That’s the crux,” he says. “Our parents are involved, and now we’re picking up the mantle.”
McDonald’s mum on Kroc biopic
“The Founder” is getting a lot of buzz. Except from McDonald’s.
The film tells the story — warts and all — of the late Ray Kroc, the Oak Park native who’s often referred to as founder of the restaurant chain. Actor Michael Keaton stars.
Kroc is said to have weaseled power from the first burger joint’s true founders — brothers Dick and Mac McDonald.
Kroc bought the restaurant for $2.7 million in 1961 and with a reported handshake promised to give the brothers a percentage of profits — only to renege on that.
The dramatization is set to be released Jan. 20.
It’s unauthorized by McDonald’s. Company spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to comment about the film. Chairman Emeritus Andy McKenna didn’t return a phone call. And John Rogers Jr., the Ariel Investments founder and McDonald’s board member, acknowledged only that Kroc “left an extraordinary business.”
Maybe they’re taking cues from Facebook. The social-media company similarly kept mum about “The Social Network,” a film that took an unflattering view of Mark Zuckerberg. He’s also credited with founding a company that others had a part in creating.
City cuts tree-trimming backlog
The city has eliminated a backlog of tree-trimming requests.
Back in 2013, there were 30,000 requests. Mayor Rahm Emanuel challenged Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams to get caught up. Williams’ department oversees tree-trimming.
It was a bet, of sorts, says Williams. “He was questioning when we would get rid of the backlog. And we’ve done it.”
Williams credits Chicago’s streamlined garbage system with allowing more time for employees to focus on tree-trimming. In the past, tree-trimmers got pulled in to help collect garbage.
By 2015, the city had 12,000 requests on file. As of Nov. 1, when tree-trimming ends, the city had zero.
The mayor hosted a thank-you breakfast last week.