Even before Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” problem arose, members of the Economic Club of Chicago rushed to grab luncheon tickets for the group’s Tuesday luncheon, featuring New Jersey’s Republican governor participating in a Q&A with Motorola Solutions chairman and CEO Greg Brown.
“I knew this would be an instant sell-out,” said Chicago financial executive Joan Steel, perusing the clearly sold-out, packed ballroom of the Sheraton Chicago.
When former Playboy CEO Christie Hefner, now executive chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises was on hand for the luncheon, the longtime supporter of Democratic and liberal causes said, it was “because I’m very interested in politics and the governor is a major figure on the national scene. I think it will be interesting to see what he has to say about what’s happening in big cities — and also how he handles the ongoing investigation [of “Bridgegate”].
On a lighter note, Hefner revealed she and the governor — frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate — had “a delightful conversation [at a pre-luncheon private reception]. I began by noting that Playboy had done quite a lot of business in New Jersey — building Great Gorge and one of the early casino hotels in Atlantic City. He was well aware of that.
“It also was noted while we were chatting amicably, that if we had ever gotten married, I’d have been Christie Christie”
Among other key players on the Chicago business and civic scene, present for the luncheon were William Daley, Patrick Canning (KPMG), David Hiller (McCormick Foundation), Michael Ferro (Wrapports chairman, owner of the Sun-Times), Andy McKenna, Sr., William Farley, William Smithburg, Jack Sandner, Manny and Pat Sanchez, Amanda Fox, Julia Smolyansky (Lifeway Foods), Patricia Cox and Keith Goldstein.
Andy Shaw, head of the Better Government Association, said “I wouldn’t be anywhere else” Tuesday. When you run a non-profit watchdog organization, like I do, you always want to be in the room with the Economic Club patrons, because this group includes a lot of our donors, a lot of the movers and shakers in Chicago. Plus you really aught to see people who aspire to the presidency.
“This is a great example of a public official who’s been held extraordinarily accountable for bad behavior of underlings. And what’s going on in New Jersey is very much like what goes on here in Illinois. I want to see how he comports himself.
“I watched governors in this state comport themselves under enormous amounts of pressure — George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich — let’s see how Chris Christie does. … Who doesn’t want to see Chris Christie handle the pressure?”