The inside story on the top Illinois political donors: the who’s who of Biden’s fundraisers

With a donation of $2,525,000, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is one of the top contributors to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker is one of the nation’s top Democratic donors.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is one of the nation’s top Democratic donors.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — The presidential election likely won’t be settled Tuesday, but the results of the campaign cash money race are in — with Illinois mega donors making the ranks of the top 100 federal givers.

With Illinois not in play in the presidential contest, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has emerged as one of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin — in a crucial battleground state that could help tip the White House to Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

And better late than never, the Biden campaign finally released the name of top fundraisers on Saturday night, folks who collected at least $100,000 to boost Biden’s bid. The list includes some three dozen Chicago area Democratic activists and elected officials.

Takeaways on the state and federal money plays of high-end Illinois contributors:

ILLINOIS MEGA DONORS: Here’s the who’s who from Illinois in the elite donor ranks, according to an analysis of the top 100 by the Center for Responsive Politics. The rankings total contributions from couples and dependent children to federal candidates, parties, political action committees and other political organizations, such as super PACS, as of Oct. 23.

Rank 4: Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein of Lake Forest, the chiefs of Uline Industries, the business products company. They gave $65.5 million, all to Republican candidates and causes.

Rank: 6: Kenneth Griffin, billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel, $46.3 million, all to GOP interests.

Rank 14: Fred Eychaner, a media executive and long one of the Democrats’ biggest donors, $19 million, all to Democratic candidates or causes.

Rank 42: Craig Duchossois, the executive chair of The Duchossois Group, Inc. and wife Janet, $6.1 million, most to Republicans with $212,800 to Democrats.

Rank 59: Gov. Pritzker and wife M.K., $4.6 million to bolster Democrats.

Rank 74: Michael Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer, GCM Grosvenor and wife Cari, $3.8 million to Democrats. Michael Sacks is an investor in Sun-Times Media.

Rank 92: Mellody Hobson, the co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments, $3.1 million, to Democrats.

HOBSON FOOTNOTE: If Biden wins — Hobson has been mentioned in a few speculative stories as in the mix for a possible spot in the administration.

PRITZKER, GRIFFIN, FOOTNOTE: The two are in a grinding money war of attrition over Pritzker’s amendment question on the ballot to change the state income tax system from a flat to a graduated income tax. On top of their federal spending, as of Sunday, Pritzker has put $58.2 million of his own money in his tax campaign with Griffin throwing in at least $53 million to fight the change.

MORE ON PRITZKER DONATIONS: Here’s a closer look at the governor’s political plays.

On the federal side, $2,256,300 to the Senate Majority PAC and various giving to help elect House Democrats: $256,300 total to Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund; $1 million to the House Majority PAC and $259,100 total to the Cheri Bustos Victory Fund. Bustos is the chair of the Democratic House political operation.

Pritzker also gave $1.5 million to Priorities USA Action, a main pro-Biden super PAC, and $721,300 to the Biden Victory Fund, which was dispersed to a variety of swing state Democratic parties.

On the state party front, Pritzker gave $250,000 to the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee and $2,525,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Federal Account.

Quentin Fulks, Pritzker’s top political adviser said, “Wisconsin is the closest battleground state in the Midwest” and Pritzker “wanted to ensure that Trump did not win there.”

Pritzker in 2020 also gave to many state legislative candidates and $100,000 to the abortion rights Personal PAC.

BIDEN BUNDLERS FINALLY REVEALED: Top fundraisers who work their networks to raise political cash from other people are known as bundlers.

The Biden campaign released the names of people who delivered — some with spouses — at least $100,000 for the campaign and affiliated joint fundraising committees.

I counted some 36 from Illinois or with Chicago ties, even if they used another address for donation purposes.

Biden bundlers include: Penny Pritzker, former Obama Commerce Secretary; Valerie Alexander, who comes out of the Bill and Hillary Clinton political orbit; and Marcia Balonick listed on behalf of JACPAC, where she is the executive director of the Highland Park based Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs. Linda Rae Sher, the JACPAC founder, is also on the list.

Some bundlers are longtime Democratic donors and activists: Michael Sacks, in addition to his direct donations; Neil Bluhm, co-founder and chairman of Rush Street Gaming; Leslie Bluhm, founder and president of Chicago Cares Inc.; lawyers William Singer, Bob Clifford, Joseph Power and Mike Cherry plus Desiree Rogers, the former Obama White House social secretary who is the chief executive officer at Black Opal Cosmetics.

In addition, John Rogers, the founder of Ariel Investments; Clayco’s Bob Clark; and Star Jones, former host of “The View.” Plus Illinois Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and Reps. Bill Foster and Brad Schneider. Former Obama ambassadors Wally Brewster and husband Bob Satawake; and Bruce Heyman and wife Vicki also bundled for Biden.

Less familiar donor names include Brent Gledhill, the global head of investment banking for William Blair and wife Catherine (He also gave $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee) and Roger Hochschild, CEO and president of Discover Financial Services.

This 2020 cycle also marked the rise of Invest to Elect — a Chicago area “women’s political investment organization” spawned in 2017 to raise money for Democrats who support abortion rights.

Biden bundler Dania Leemputte is an Invest to Elect steering committee member. Members of the group put together one of the last in-person Illinois fundraising events this COVID pandemic cycle, a March 6 funder in Glencoe with Jill Biden.

LUKAS WALTON AND WAL-MART HEIRS: Lukas Walton, a billionaire heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, stays mainly under the political radar, though he flexed his money muscle this cycle. His state and federal political donations use addresses in Arkansas and what appears to be a post office box near DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus.

In 2020, Lukas Walton gave about $120,000 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $106,500 to the Democratic National Committee.

Lukas and two other Wal-Mart heirs, Alice Walton and her brother Jim, continued to donate in this cycle to Illinois PACs boosting charter schools and “educational choice initiatives,” One Chance Illinois and its related independent expenditure arm and the INCS Action Independent Committee.

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