Will Jeb Bush land Chicago mega donor Ken Griffin?

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SHARE Will Jeb Bush land Chicago mega donor Ken Griffin?

WASHINGTON — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has made inroads into landing the support of one of the nation’s biggest but so far uncommitted mega donors, Chicago’s Kenneth Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel Investment Group, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

New records reveal a June donation of $100,000 from Griffin to Bush’s “Right to Rise USA” super PAC, a relatively small check by jumbo contributor standards.

Though I am told by sources that Griffin has not yet made any pledge of more financial support for Bush, the donation certainly looks like he put a marker down. Two sources told me the billionaire Griffin is leaning toward Bush.

The names of contributors to super PACS benefiting 2016 White House contenders were reported for the first time on Friday. The disclosures, covering the first six months of 2015, are throwing a spotlight on the mega donors who are bankrolling presidential campaigns in 2016.

Joe and Marlene Ricketts, whose family owns the Cubs, and Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein of Lake Forest, the founders of Uline Corp., are the biggest donors to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential super PAC, “Unintimidated,” new reports show.

The super PACS allied with presidential candidates are supposed to be “independent” of the official campaigns, but that’s a fiction.

Contributions by mega donors are all but throwing out rules intended to curb the power of special interests and wealthy individuals.

It’s no surprise that Joe and Marlene Ricketts are backing Walker. Son Todd, a member of the Cubs board, is the national finance chair for Walker’s “official” campaign fund, which must operate under restrictive federal rules.

Super PACS can take unlimited amounts of money from anybody.

I reported in May that Todd Ricketts threw a fundraising barbecue for Walker’s “Unintimidated” PAC at his Wilmette home.

What’s new are the staggering amounts of cash Joe and Marlene Ricketts are giving to advance Walker’s presidential bid and the rise of Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein as national players.

Marlene Ricketts donated $4.9 million and Joe threw in $100,000 — a total of $5 million from the couple, the new Federal Election Commission reports show.

She was ecumenical in her giving to Republican hopefuls whom she has known a long time.

Records show Marlene Ricketts donated $10,000 in June to Bush’s “Right to Rise” PAC and $10,000 to the “Security is Strength” super PAC organized to bolster the presidential bid of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Richard Uihlein keeps a relatively low political profile, but his donations for the 2014 and now 2016 elections have thrust him in the top tier of national super PAC players.

Uihlein and his wife are the founders of the distribution giant Uline, Corp., which last year moved one of its facilities from Waukegan to Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, not far from Kenosha.

Elizabeth, the president of Uline, donated $750,000 to “Unintimidated,” while Richard, the owner and COO of the company, gave $1,750,000, a total of $2.5 million, according to FEC records.

The FEC records also show that Richard Duchossois, from the horse racing family, and his wife, Kimberly, gave a combined $45,000 to Walker’s super PAC so far this year.

These presidential allied super PACS are already playing an outsized role in the 2016 contests.

Super PACs such as “Unintimidated” and “Right to Rise” are allowed to take unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and any other group. The contributions don’t count toward overall limits set by the Federal Election Commission.

Federal campaigns are not allowed to take money directly from corporations or labor organizations. Individual donations are capped at $2,700 for the primary and $2,700 for the general election. Unions and companies can create PACs but they can only transfer $5,000 to a campaign.

Donations from Griffin, Joe Ricketts and Richard Uihlein reveal interlocking political interests. Todd Ricketts is the CEO of the conservative Ending Spending super PAC and its nonprofit advocacy arm. Joe Ricketts, the former CEO of TD Ameritrade, is the major donor to Ending Spending. Uihlein and Griffin are also mega donors to Ending Spending.

Last April, Griffin, a major donor to Gov. Bruce Rauner, gave $8 million to “Turnaround Illinois,” a political committee created to push Rauner’s legislative agenda. Uihlein contributed $2 million on top of the $10 million Rauner threw in the pot.

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