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Republican mega donor Ken Griffin gives $1 million to Obama Foundation

Ken Griffin

Ken Griffin | Photo courtesy of Citadel

WASHINGTON – Ken Griffin, the Chicago business mogul who is one of the richest men in the nation and a Republican mega donor, contributed $1 million to the Obama Foundation, according to disclosures released Friday.

Griffin’s contribution – made through his Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Gift Fund – is the first jumbo GOP donation to the Obama Foundation.

It comes as the organization is making a push for major money from top Chicago civic and corporate leaders – Republicans and Democrats – and the companies and foundations they control.

Griffin, one of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and causes in the nation, may give political cover to other civic-minded Chicago Republicans who are on the fence about making a gift to the former Democratic president’s foundation.

Griffin in past years also donated about $1 million to campaign funds supporting the election of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Democrat who was Obama’s first chief of staff. Griffin was a donor and fundraiser for Obama’s 2008 run for the White House.

Griffin gave the $1 million in September, with teams from both sides working to make it happen. Former President Barack Obama called Griffin to thank him for his donation.

“President Obama has been an important part of the civic community in Chicago. It is a great honor to have his presidential library in our city, where Chicago residents and visitors can enjoy it for years to come,” Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel said in a statement.

Other new donors in the third quarter were:

*The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated at least $1 million.

*The Goldberg Family Foundation gave between $250,001 and $500,000. Evan Goldberg is the founder of NetSuite.

*Giving between $10,000 to $100,000 were former Obama administration OMB Director Peter Orszag, now a vice chairman and managing director at Lazard in New York, and his wife Bianna Golodryga, a television journalist with Yahoo!

Also, the MJK Family Foundation in New York, and Robert Rivkin and Cindy Moelis, Chicagoans who both served in the Obama administration. Rivkin is now in City Hall as deputy mayor; Moelis is currently president of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, with former Obama Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who is a new member of the Obama Foundation board.

The Obama Foundation, chaired by Marty Nesbitt, unfortunately only lists ranges of contributions and just the names of donors with no other identifying information on its website. The Sun-Times confirmed the Griffin gift was $1 million.

The Obama Foundation is raising money to build the Obama Center in Jackson Park – an event forum, an office building, museum, recording studio, library and community garden complex. A goal of Obama and former first lady Michelle is to use the center as a trigger for an economic revival on the South Side.

Earlier this year, the Obama Foundation jumped into a new stage of fundraising, taking at least $1 million from Microsoft and Exelon, headquartered in Chicago’s Loop. Obama did not want his foundation taking corporate dollars until he was out of the White House.

Whether these donations are connected to any corporate signage or naming rights or other visibility is not yet known.